IMF: Lebanon's Reforms Insufficient for Recovery

Lebanese policeman stand outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Lebanese policeman stand outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
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IMF: Lebanon's Reforms Insufficient for Recovery

Lebanese policeman stand outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir
Lebanese policeman stand outside the parliament building in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

Lebanon's economic reforms are insufficient to help lift the country out of its economic crisis, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Thursday.

Ernesto Ramirez Rigo, the head of the IMF mission visiting Lebanon, said in a statement that Lebanon's ongoing refugee crisis, fighting with Israel at its Southern border and the spillover from the war in Gaza are exacerbating an already dire economic situation.

Israeli forces and Lebanon's Hezbollah have traded fire across Lebanon's southern border since the war in Gaza broke out in October last year.

The conflict "has internally displaced a significant number of people and caused damage to infrastructure, agriculture, and trade in southern Lebanon. Together with a decline in tourism, the high risks associated with the conflict create significant uncertainty to the economic outlook," Rigo said, Reuters reported.
Fiscal and monetary reforms carried out by Lebanon's finance ministry and the central bank, including steps to unify multiple exchange rates for the Lebanese pound and contain a currency slump, have helped reduce inflationary pressure, according to Rigo.

However, he said more needs to be done if Lebanon is to alleviate its financial crisis.

"These policy measures fall short of what is needed to enable a recovery from the crisis. Bank deposits remain frozen, and the banking sector is unable to provide credit to the economy, as the government and parliament have been unable to find a solution to the banking crisis," he added.

"Addressing the banks' losses while protecting depositors to the maximum extent possible and limiting recourse to scarce public resources in a credible and financially viable manner is indispensable to lay the foundation for economic recovery."

Since Lebanon's economy began to unravel in 2019, its currency has lost around 95% of its value, banks have locked most depositors out of their savings and more than 80% of the population has sunk below the poverty line.

The crisis erupted after decades of profligate spending and corruption among the ruling elite, some of whom led banks that lent heavily to the state.

The government estimates losses in the financial system total more than $70 billion, the majority of which were accrued at the central bank.

 

 

 

 

 



Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Lebanon Tourism Season Revives Economic Outlook

People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
People are seen at the arrival lounge at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The surge in visitors to Lebanon during Eid al-Adha and high demand for summer concert bookings are boosting hopes for a revival in tourism.

This sector is crucial for reigniting positive economic growth after about nine months of challenging conditions due to the Gaza war and subsequent border clashes between Hezbollah and Israel in southern Lebanon.

Contrary to earlier fears this month of possible Israeli strikes inside Lebanon, Ali Hamieh, caretaker Minister of Public Works and Transport, reported a daily average of 14,000 arrivals at Beirut’s Rafic Hariri International Airport, with numbers on the rise.

Jean Abboud, President of the Association of Travel and Tourism Agents, confirmed that despite initial concerns, booking rates have bounced back to 90-95% after Israeli threats of a mid-month strike. Most arrivals are Lebanese expatriates and foreign workers.

Before the summer season’s anticipated surge, Lebanon saw a 5.37% decrease in arrivals, with air traffic down by 9.34% and passenger numbers at Beirut International Airport dropping by 6.84% in the first five months of this year, totaling 2.29 million travelers compared to 2.46 million last year.

These declines were linked to the border clashes.

Lebanon’s tourism sector, generating over $5 billion annually in recent years, ranks as the country’s second most vital revenue stream after expatriate remittances, which officially approach $7 billion.

Together, they contribute more than half of Lebanon’s national income, which has dropped sharply from about $55 billion to under $22 billion due to the ongoing financial and currency crises that erupted five years ago.

Despite significant losses during peak tourism seasons like Christmas, Easter, and Eid al-Fitr, a report by Bank Audi indicated that Lebanon’s tourism revenues lost over $1 billion in the first six months of the Gaza conflict, driven by a 24% drop in tourist arrivals.

On average, tourists spend around $3,000 during their stay in Lebanon.