Lebanon's Govt Approves Economic Reform Plan

In this photo released by the Lebanese Government, President Michel Aoun, center, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, third left, and other government ministers wear masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)
In this photo released by the Lebanese Government, President Michel Aoun, center, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, third left, and other government ministers wear masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)
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Lebanon's Govt Approves Economic Reform Plan

In this photo released by the Lebanese Government, President Michel Aoun, center, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, third left, and other government ministers wear masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)
In this photo released by the Lebanese Government, President Michel Aoun, center, Prime Minister Hassan Diab, third left, and other government ministers wear masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus, while attending the cabinet meeting at the presidential palace in Baabda, east of Beirut, Lebanon, Thursday, March 19, 2020. (Dalati Nohra/Lebanese Government via AP)

The Lebanese government approved on Thursday an economic reform plan to save the country from its grave crisis.

Lebanon will request aid from the International Monetary Fund to help the nation find a way out of a dire financial crisis based on the government’s five-year rescue plan, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said.

Diab described the plan, which was adopted unanimously by the cabinet, as a comprehensive “roadmap” for dealing with the spiraling financial crisis and the collapse of the national currency. The crisis has led to escalating violence as protesters enraged by the financial upheaval and rising poverty take to the streets despite a virus lockdown.

International donors have long demanded that Lebanon institute major economic reforms and anti-corruption measures, including in 2018, when they pledged 11 billion dollars. That money has yet to be released.

The current situation is seen as the biggest threat to the country's stability since the 1975-90 civil war.

The pound is still pegged at a rate of 1,507.5 to the dollar, even as it has slumped below 4,000 on a parallel market since October.

Diab said the five-year plan aims to reduce the current account deficit to 5.6% and to secure $10 billion of external support — in addition to the $11 billion pledges in 2018 by international donors.

The plan also envisions that growth would return to positive in 2022 and promises assistance for the needy. The plan also aims to restore an initial budget surplus by 2024, structuring the sovereign debt portfolio and reducing the ratio of public debt to GDP to less than 100% from the current 170%.

Diab called for unity Thursday.

"If we all unite, we will definitely reach the desired success in the future,” he said.



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.