Lebanon recovered from the financial shock triggered by Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination. Executive Directors supported the strategy of debt reduction through sustained fiscal adjustment. They welcomed the proactive stance of banking sector supervision and encouraged adoption of a strong securities regulator with adequate legal protection to enhance the stability of the stock market. They stressed the need to strengthen the environment for private sector activity by reducing red tape and corruption, reactivating the liberalization and privatization of the telecom sector, strengthening contract enforcement, and accelerating structural reforms.
This Report on the Interim IMF Staff Visit to Lebanon provides information on economic and policy developments since the Article IV discussions of February–March 2004. It updates the IMF staff’s projections, medium-term framework, and related Debt Sustainability Analysis. All available indicators point to a significant acceleration in growth, which is projected to reach 5 percent in 2004. Strong export and tourism receipts and a recovery in construction activity are the driving factors behind the strengthening recovery. A modest acceleration of inflation to about 3 percent is expected in 2004.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that Lebanon’s economic growth remains subdued. Following a sharp drop in 2011, growth edged upward briefly to 2–3 percent, but has now slowed again. The IMF staff estimates that GDP increased by 1 percent in 2015, and a similar growth rate in 2016 is projected. Lebanon’s traditional growth drivers—tourism, real estate, and construction—have received a significant blow and a strong rebound is unlikely based on current trends. In the absence of a turnaround in confidence, or a resolution of the Syrian conflict, growth is unlikely to return to potential (4 percent) soon.
This 2007 Article IV Consultation highlights that economic developments in Lebanon in 2006 were significantly affected by the July–August conflict with Israel. Real GDP is estimated to have been flat, with strong growth in the first half of the year offset by the disruptions during and after the conflict. Inflation increased, mainly reflecting supply shortages during the conflict and the ensuing blockade. Executive Directors have welcomed the authorities’ success in containing the primary fiscal deficit in the first half of 2007.
The Lebanese authorities have requested follow-up Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance with an access of 12.5 percent of quota to support their economic program. The 2006 war with Israel led to a political stalemate and repeated outbreaks of domestic fighting until the formation of a national unity government in July 2008. Macroeconomic conditions have improved, but fuel and food prices have boosted inflation. Financial market developments have been favorable, despite the global financial crisis, which has had little effect on Lebanon.
Lebanon is facing a difficult global, regional, and domestic environment simultaneously for the first time in more than a decade. Domestic policies should aim at instilling confidence and tackling key policy challenges, such as preserving macroeconomic stability and paving the way for a more resilient, dynamic, and inclusive economy. The Banque du Liban (BdL) relied on its large foreign reserves build-up during the upswing to intervene forcefully when the Lebanese pound came under pressure from deposit outflows and currency conversions in the wake of the government crisis.
In this study, Lebanon’s economy performed well during the global financial crisis. The banking sector has been resilient in the face of the global crisis, thanks to relatively conservative funding and asset structures, and prudent banking regulations and supervision. The need to address the high government debt and to implement growth-enhancing structural reforms is emphasized. To underpin the medium-term fiscal strategy and growth, Executive Directors encouraged the authorities to take the opportunity of the positive economic environment to implement structural reforms.
The Lebanese financial system has so far weathered the global financial crisis. The 2009 Article IV Consultation highlights that deposit inflows decelerated briefly in the aftermath of the Lehman Brothers bankruptcy, but have resumed at a rapid pace since then. Executive Directors have welcomed the remarkable resilience of the Lebanese economy in the face of the global financial crisis. Directors have also supported the authorities’ monetary policy aimed at safeguarding the exchange rate peg and facilitating a further buildup of international reserves.