Until the economy was almost completely destroyed by the civil strife that rent the country from 1975 to 1990, Lebanon was long the distribution center for the Middle East, and commerce was its major industry. Beirut, a free port, was the region's financial and commercial hub. Throughout the 1980s the commercial and industrial life of Lebanon was in severe disarray, but by the 1990s the economy had at least partially revived, although the Israel invasion and air attacks of 2006 were a severe setback. Banking, insurance, food processing, and the manufacture of textiles, chemicals, jewelry, and wood and furniture products are now important. Oil refining and metal fabricating are also important industries. Other significant sources of income have been a revived tourism industry, remittances from Lebanese working abroad, and international aid. The illicit narcotics trade (opium, hashish, heroin) also has a considerable impact on the economy.
Farm products contribute only a small portion of the GDP. The main crops are citrus fruits, vegetables, olives, tobacco, and grapes. Sheep and goats are raised. Lebanon has few minerals. Not many of the famed cedars remain, although oak and pine are exploited.
The annual cost of Lebanon's imports is much greater than its earnings from exports. The country exports jewelry, chemicals, consumer goods, fruit, tobacco, construction materials, electric equipment, textile fibers, and paper, largely to other Arab countries. Imports include petroleum products, cars, medicine, clothing, meat and live animals, consumer goods, paper, textile fabrics, and tobacco. The main trading partners are Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Saudi Arabia.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.