Alain Bifani is a seasoned financial expert with over 20 years of international experience with global financial institutions.
In 2000, Bifani was appointed Director General of the Ministry of Finance, the youngest person to be appointed a director general in Lebanon. Bifani still maintains this position today and has successfully implemented change in a complex multicultural environment where obedience to clans supersedes allegiance to institutions.
At the Ministry of Finance, Bifani is responsible for managing a team of roughly 3500 employees, preparing and executing the government’s budget (about $17 billion), managing the ministry’s budget (about $1.4 billion), leading the Treasury Department, and running the tax administration. Bifani is also in charge of public expenditure, public accounting, and public debt (a portfolio of $80 billion), including the front office (Eurobonds, treasury bills, swaps), the risk management and the back office. In addition, Bifani prepares, supervises and implements medium term debt strategies and medium term expenditure frameworks.
As Director General of the Ministry of Finance, Bifani has planned and implemented the modernization of the Ministry of Finance, creating a more efficient, effective and transparent organization. He is mostly recognized for his introduction of the Value-Added Tax in 2002, the complete reconstitution of the financial accounts of Lebanon (from 1993 to 2018), the new budget classification, successful public debt management, the restructuring of the tax administration, the introduction of the tax procedure code, and the implementation of e-taxation. Bifani has developed stronger internal ties among the ministry’s units and has established reliable communication lines with the media, the public, and the international community.
Active in politics, Bifani has written and lobbied for an insider trading law and a new capital markets law, which were voted in 2011 and 2012, respectively. He has helped to develop the transparency of capital markets in Lebanon.
Alain Bifani has served on the Board of the Central Bank of Lebanon, the Open Market Committee, and the Higher Court of Banks. He is an active participant in setting the monetary and banking policies of Lebanon, as well as managing the risks of the banking sector, supervising its operations, and defining the policies related to its sustainability. These responsibilities require both strategic thinking and hands-on commitment.
Since 2000, Bifani has been the president of the National Social Security Fund’s financial committee, supervising the management of assets amounting to more than $6.5 billion. He is Lebanon’s Deputy Governor at the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the Arab Bank for Agricultural Development.
Throughout his career, Bifani has been an effective consensus builder, and has been able to implement major reforms despite strong resistance from the Lebanese establishment. He has proven successful in managing national finances despite major crises such as political assassinations, wars, refugees, the 2006 blockade, institutional paralysis (2005-2009 and 2014-2016), and the absence of a government budget for more than 12 years.
The promotion of transparency is at the heart of Bifani’s work. He introduced electronic taxation, taxpayers’ services, and a code of ethics. Recently, Bifani led Lebanon’s tax transparency upgrade program, lifting Lebanon from non-compliant to largely compliant according to the Global Forum for Tax Transparency and the OECD. This effort required intense lobbying at local and national levels to eliminate banking secrecy for non-resident accounts, daily follow-up on implementation, drafting and passing legislation related to transparency, and leading reviews by peers.
Recently, Bifani was put in charge of creating the legal and operational base for tax petroleum activities, which he completed successfully. Simultaneously, he developed Lebanon’s economic and financial response plan to the Syrian refugee crisis, while acting as the main interlocutor for the international community on this topic.
With World Bank president Jim Yong Kim and the Islamic Development Bank, Bifani lead the launch of the Global Concessional Financial Facility for middle-income countries massively hit by refugee crises. He is still Lebanon’s delegate for the GCFF today. He is also at the forefront of mobilizing donor and lender funds to help Lebanon handle the refugee crisis, and he has been deeply involved in the CEDRE conference process.
In 2014, Alain Bifani initiated Lebanon’s accession bid to European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. He personally led the negotiations with sometimes reluctant shareholders, and succeeded in passing the required Lebanese legislation despite inefficient governance.
Given his international experience and impressive network of politicians, civil servants and private sector CEOs, Bifani has become the government’s point man in dealing with international institutions, bilateral and multilateral agencies (the World Bank Group, the IMF, the European Union, EIB, AFD, JICA, AIIB, all Arab funds), sovereign wealth funds (Kuwait, Qatar, and Norway), and the private sector. He is Lebanon’s alternate governor at the World Bank, and an appointed expert at the IMF. He has been the main international financial institutions’ counterpart for policy dialogue and surveillance since 2000. Bifani has also represented Lebanon at the Group of 24 (G24), which he chaired three times in 2002, 2003 and 2015. In this capacity, he addressed the IMFC and Development Committees and attended the G-20 deputy meetings.
Earlier in his career, he worked at Arthur Andersen in Paris, mostly auditing banks in France and consulting for the housing sector needs in post-war countries. He was then appointed Corporate Officer and Treasury and Correspondent Banking Manager at ABN AMRO Bank Lebanon and Dubai.
At Thomson Financial Bankwatch, Bifani was the director of the Middle-East, Central Asia and North Africa programs for sovereign ratings. He also consulted for the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, and founded a consultant company, Pitch, that successfully introduced securitization in Lebanon.
Bifani has not just focused on the public sector. He contributed to developing a central bank initiative for start-ups, and jointly led efforts to introduce a PPP law in Lebanon. Now, he is working on promoting social businesses through a joint initiative with the British Embassy and has already reached out to contributors such as Japan and Kuwait.
Bifani and his team developed an environmentally friendly reform agenda (re-distribution policy, tax policy, social safety nets, growth agenda, labor, infrastructure, financial sector’s effectiveness) for the government of Lebanon, and is lobbying for its adoption.
Recognized with innumerable awards for his public and community services, Bifani is the recipient of the “Commandeur de l’Ordre du Cedre”, one of the highest awards in Lebanon, the “Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur” by the French president, and the United Nations Public Service Award, “Improving Transparency for Taxpayer Service”. Bifani is consistently awarded the highest evaluation rating by the Central Inspection Board, and is among the 100 most influential people in Lebanon according to “Magazine”, in great part due to his determination to fight corruption at the national level.
Between 1995 and 2005, Alain taught at Saint-Joseph University and La Sagesse University in Beirut. He taught courses in capital markets, finance, and strategic management (masters and DESS levels), and investment strategy (EMBA level).
He holds an Engineering degree in Optics and Telecommunication from the Ecole Superieure d’Optique (France) and a higher degree in Management and Finance from the Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commerciales (HEC), France. Earlier, he studied Mathematics and Physics at Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris, and he is presently writing his thesis in Economics at Paris I La Sorbonne. Bifani also attended the Leading Change and Organizational Renewal course at the Harvard Business School.
Born on July 4, 1968, Bifani is married to Sandra Habchi. They have two children: Paolo and Clara. He speaks English, French and Arabic fluently, and has working knowledge of Spanish.