Around 187 retail shops in Beirut have shut down since 2018 until the first quarter of 2019 due to economic slowdown, said Nicolas Chammas, head of Beirut Traders Association, on Wednesday.
"Unfortunately, the purchasing power of Lebanese people has dropped tremendously in the previous years," Chammas told Xinhua news agency.
Chammas attributed the drop in the purchasing power to the high competition with the Syrian workforce which has replaced Lebanese labors in many sectors.
"The Lebanese people have become unemployed and cannot spend money the way they used to do in the past, while Syrians are getting paid and they are sending their salaries back to their homeland," Chammas explained.
Chammas added that a lot of Syrians came to Lebanon and opened shops which created fierce competition with Lebanese traders, causing lots of Lebanese people to lose their businesses.
"Some Syrian traders have illegal shops. They operate at lower costs. They do not pay taxes or pay for the membership of the National Social Security Fund, which give them the capacity to compete with Lebanese businesses," he said.
He noted that this has caused a decline in trade activity of Lebanese traders by 40 percent, and the Lebanese businessmen's income has dropped by 70 percent.
The government must take a series of measures to help save the trade sector from further deterioration, said Chammas.
He said that the government must shut down illegal shops which are operating on the Lebanese territories without any proper supervision.
"The government should also close all illegal borders to prevent the illegal entry of products to Lebanon. The import of foreign products should be subject to custom fees to relieve the competition vis-a-vis local industry and traders who work legally," he said.
He added that banks should also be more flexible while providing loans to local retail shops.
"Banks should not sell the collateral of their clients in case they were incapable of paying back their loans," he said. "This measure can be adopted until the economic situation is improved and traders' revenues are back to normal again."
Chammas also called upon the government to avoid imposing any new taxes on the new 2019 budget because traders cannot take the burden of taxes anymore.