This report reviews the Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance (EPCA) given to Lebanon after the conflict with Israel in 2006. The five-week conflict with Israel in 2006 and the month-long blockade that followed inflicted a heavy human and economic toll on Lebanon. EPCA would provide an appropriate transition to 2008, when fiscal adjustment is envisaged to commence. The authorities intend to seek IMF support through a Stand-By Arrangement (SBA), following satisfactory implementation of the EPCA program and after the immediate impact of the conflict has been addressed and the current political stalemate resolved.
Following the 15-year civil war that started in 1975, Lebanon's government began the difficult task of economic stabilization and confidence building, on the one hand, and postwar reconstruction and development, on the other. The government led the reconstruction effort by formulating programs that aimed to rapidly rehabilitate the country's severly damaged infrastructure in preparation for private-sector-led growth over the medium term. At the same time, Lebanon introduced an exchange-rate-based nominal anchor policy to stabilize expectations and cut inflation. This paper analyzes the government's progress with the policies adopted.
International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
In early 2006, the Lebanese government outlined an ambitious reform program to reduce the country’s large debt and financial vulnerabilities. The timing was opportune because the economy looked poised for a strong recovery. However, the July 2006 conflict with Israel dashed hopes of high growth and forced the government to adapt its reform strategy to the postconflict environment. Donors endorsed the government’s revised agenda, presented at the Paris III conference on January 25, 2007, and on April 9, the IMF Executive Board approved a $77 million loan to Lebanon in the form of Emergency Post-Conflict Assistance, as part of a concerted international effort to assist the country.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis led to a surge in government debt and financing needs as many countries in the Middle East and Central Asia reacted swiftly to mitigate the pandemic’s impact. Although several of these countries successfully accessed international financial markets, domestic banks covered a significant share of emerging markets’ financing needs, further expanding their already significant exposure to the public sector. By contrast, most low-income countries (LICs) had a small response to the crisis because of financing and policy space constraints. Looking ahead, public gross financing needs in most emerging markets in the Middle East and Central Asia are expected to remain elevated in 2021–22, with downside risks in the event of tighter global financial conditions and/or if fiscal consolidation is delayed due to weaker-than-expected recovery. However, further reliance on domestic financing will reduce banks’ ability to support the private sector’s emergence from the crisis, thus prolonging the recovery. Credible medium-term fiscal and debt management strategies, together with policy actions to develop domestic capital markets and mitigate banks’ overexposure to the sovereign would reduce financing risks, address the elevated debt burdens, and entrench financial stability.
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 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 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.
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.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
The Syrian crisis and the associated inflow of refugees continue to dominate Lebanon’s short-term outlook, compounding long-standing policy weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Political paralysis has set in, with virtually no progress on the structural front. Growth has remained modest and insufficient to make a dent in rising poverty and unemployment. A welcome improvement in the primary fiscal position in 2014 was largely due to temporary factors, and will not be sustained absent adjustment efforts—implying that, without additional effort, Lebanon’s already-sizable public debt burden will only worsen. Financial conditions have nonetheless remained stable, as deposit inflows continue to fund the economy and sizeable buffers support the credibility of the exchange rate peg.