From 1516 to 1918, Lebanon was under the administrative rule and political sovereignty of the Ottoman Empire. In 1920, the territory defined by the present-day boundaries became a state called “Grand –Liban” (Great Lebanon) by decree of General Gouraud, head of the French troops in the Levant. The state remained under the French Mandate until November 26, 1941. A constitution was adopted on May 25, 1926, establishing a democratic republic with a parliamentary system of government. The effective political independence of the Republic occurred on November 22, 1943 (Independence Day). In 1945 Lebanon became a founding member of the League of Arab states, then of the United Nations. The departure of the foreign troops then on the Republic’s territory was completed on December 31, 1946.
Over the next 30 years, Lebanon became a melting pot with a diverse cultural heritage. The instability in surrounding countries caused Lebanon to experience large waves of immigration from neighboring countries, attracting thousands of skilled laborers, entrepreneurs, and intellectuals. The economic force of the Republic has mainly revolved around its entrepreneurs. In addition, Lebanon’s democratic traditions, attachment to freedom of speech and expression, and its educated population enabled the Republic to become the cultural, academic, and medical center of the region.
Land Area: 10,452 sq km
Population: 3,925,502 (July 2007 est.)
Capital City: Beirut
Language: Arabic (official), French, English, Armenian
Religion: Muslim 59.7% (Shi'a, Sunni, Druze, Isma'ilite, Alawite or Nusayri), Christian 39% (Maronite Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Melkite Catholic, Armenian Orthodox, Syrian Catholic, Armenian Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Assyrian, Copt, Protestant), other 1.3%
note: 17 religious sects recognized
Form of Government: republic
Economy: The 1975-90 civil war seriously damaged Lebanon's economic infrastructure, cut national output by half, and all but ended Lebanon's position as a Middle Eastern entrepot and banking hub. In the years since, Lebanon has rebuilt much of its war-torn physical and financial infrastructure by borrowing heavily - mostly from domestic banks. In an attempt to reduce the ballooning national debt, the Rafiq HARIRI government began an austerity program, reining in government expenditures, increasing revenue collection, and privatizing state enterprises, but economic and financial reform initiatives stalled and public debt continued to grow despite receipt of more than $2 billion in bilateral assistance at the Paris II Donors Conference. The Israeli-Hizballah conflict in July-August 2006 caused an estimated $3.6 billion in infrastructure damage and prompted international donors to pledge nearly $1 billion in recovery and reconstruction assistance. Donors met again in January 2007 and pledged over $7.5 billion to Lebanon for development projects and budget support, conditioned on progress on Beirut's fiscal reform and privatization program. Internal Lebanese political tension continues to hamper economic activity, particularly in the tourism and retail sectors.
Export: authentic jewelry, inorganic chemicals, miscellaneous consumer goods, fruit and vegetables, tobacco, construction minerals, electric power machinery and switchgear, textile fibers, paper
Source: The World Factbook - Lebanon