In Lebanon, culture is the source of livelihood for thousands, generating two billion dollars annually

Lebanon Economy
2023-05-16 | 03:11
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In Lebanon, culture is the source of livelihood for thousands, generating two billion dollars annually
In Lebanon, culture is the source of livelihood for thousands, generating two billion dollars annually

For more than ten years, many countries have been concerned with promoting what has come to be called the "cultural and creative industries." 

This article was originally published in, translated from the Arab outlet of Asharq Al-Awsat.

This applies to all professions related to creativity and innovation, including design, dance, photography, and music. 

Adding the word "industry" to the creative professions and various artistic activities drew attention to when the first and last word was for profit, that intellectuals and artists were not a burden on their societies.

Rather, they are major contributors to achieving national incomes, and in significant amounts, but they remained for a long time unseen.

Two years ago, a study was published titled "The Contribution of Cultural and Creative Industries to the Lebanese Economy." 

The French Embassy in Beirut, in partnership with the French Development Agency, had commissioned it by the "Basil Fuleihan Institute for Economy and Finance" to assess the status of the cultural and creative industries and know their economic "weight" and strategic importance. 

The study came after the massive economic collapse that befell the country, and the August 4 explosion, which destroyed not only hundreds of heritage buildings but also dozens of cultural institutions such as galleries, theatres, offices, design centers, and others.

But at the same time, it could monitor the cultural movement before it bleeds many of its artists.

The results did not surprise those who were following previous studies, which were carried out by university institutions and were not allowed to spread. 

The majority believes that the professions characterized by innovation are generally governed by the need for someone to finance them.

The figures say the opposite and indicate the importance of creativity in Lebanese society, the significant role that arts occupy in people's lives in developing tourism, reviving the economy, and the undoubted contribution to making people happy and securing sources of income for thousands of families.

The figures showed that nearly 5 percent of the Lebanese GDP comes from the cultural and creative industries. This percentage constitutes a hefty amount of up to two billion dollars annually. 

These sectors employ about 200 thousand people. If we count those who work in the publishing field regarding authoring, printing, correction, binding, transmission, and distribution, we will find that their number alone reaches hundreds. 

If we add to them workers in the fields of cinema and television, as well as in theatre, photography, design, painting, sculpture, dance, museums, and other fields, we would have found that the number probably exceeds two hundred thousand, especially since recent studies see that all areas that benefit from the cultural momentum in a country, such as hotels, transportation, and tourism, can be counted among the gains that culture brings to modern societies.

However, all these optimistic numbers have suffered a setback since the economic collapse and what came after it due to the port explosion. 

In the absence of accurate statistics, some estimate that more than half of the workers in the cultural field have already left the country due to the increasing economic pressure.

For these reasons combined, it is worth noting that since the August 4 explosion, international bodies and foreign countries, including France, Italy, Switzerland, and even Germany, have been trying to push for Lebanon to restore some of its lost creative and fruitful momenta, not only to nurture the spirit of innovation but mainly to help in the growth of the economy.

Al Mawred Al Thaqafi and other donors have worked since the start of the epidemic to reunite what had fallen apart. 

For example, out of 43 theaters that used to be in Beirut, only about seven are still active. 

This is in addition to the festivals that were disrupted due to lack of funding and are now trying to return to life with vibrant programs, such as the Baalbek and Beiteddine festivals.

Three months ago, that is, last February, a generous amount was announced. Still, it remains small to finance the cultural industries, and at the door for submission of applications, which ends at the end of this month, the amount that will be distributed to more than 60 projects for institutions and individuals, amounting to 2.2 million dollars, will be allocated to cultural actors in the heart of Beirut in general, and in the areas affected by the devastation of the port explosion in particular. 

This financing comes at the initiative of the UNESCO Regional Office within the framework of the "BERYT" project, which consists of two parts: the rehabilitation of heritage housing in Beirut and the revitalization of cultural and creative industries, funded by the Lebanon Financing Facility, and managed by the World Bank.

The two-million-dollar "BERYT" project may contribute aid, which can be said to reduce losses. But it is not enough to fundamentally salvage the whole situation.

As financiers know that these industries, with their diversities in Lebanon, have always been among the most active and vital, and their rich contribution, before the start of the current crisis, was a decisive factor in creating wealth in the country. 

However, the port explosion led to a severe disruption in the activities of the cultural sector, which was initially suffering from the unprecedented economic crisis that Lebanon witnessed in the last three years. 

The neighborhoods affected by the explosion are the most densely populated with galleries, theaters, and creative institutions of all kinds, and they have been severely damaged, as some were closed, some were suspended for some time, and some found emigration the best way.

Foreign aid so far has helped sustain many institutions. The Sursock Museum, in which the explosion destroyed an essential part of its building and contents, may be the most prominent example, as it will, thanks to the aid and relief of its damaged paintings in international museums, reopen its doors in a few days in a new look.

However, this collected support will not be enough. For example, the "BERYT" project supports individual projects with small sums ranging from two thousand five hundred dollars to ten thousand dollars. In comparison, the assistance of one institution may range between ten thousand and twenty-five thousand dollars.

The cultural productions supported by this project include short workshops to develop creative skills, theater management, sound and light engineering, fashion design, and intangible cultural heritage professions handed down from generations.

Lebanon Economy

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