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French Version


GDP growth forecast to rise in 2004 (Daily Star)

International financial agency releases quarterly report
Economic activity picks up after poor performance in most sectors in first quarter.
Business Monitor International (BMI) has forecasted a 2.4 percent GDP growth for 2003 in Lebanon, rising to 3.1 percent in 2004, while it projected a budget deficit equivalent to 7.78 percent of GDP for 2003 and 7.35 percent in 2004.

BMI’s quarterly report on Lebanon, released late last month by Saradar Weekly Monitor, said the Lebanese economy performed badly in the first half of 2003 mainly because of the war in Iraq, but expected output to significantly rise in the second half of the year. “The performance of most economic sectors was lackluster in the first quarter due to the war in Iraq, but activity has been picking up in the third quarter and reasonable growth across most sectors is expected in the second half of the year,” said the report.

At the same time, BMI revised downward its trade deficit forecast for Lebanon for the covered period due to the ongoing trend in export growth, adding that the country’s structural trade deficit would not be reversed over the medium-term.

The prominent emerging markets analyst firm noted that Lebanon’s macroeconomic indicators have stabilized in recent months alongside the gradual improvement in regional risk perceptions, which in turn has improved prospects for the rest of the year.

“However, the tight fiscal policy caused by the government’s high public debt, alongside continued problems in Iraq, presents substantial downward risks. “Further, the massive debt burden continues to represent a risk of default currency collapse,” added the report.

BMI considered that a period of economic stability should ensure domestic demand continues its modest growth, assuming political stability in the country and a continued international interest in Lebanese debt.

The firm said the sharp rise in government expenditures in the first seven months of 2003, attributed to temporary occurrences such as the increase in fuel prices and the decline in tourism receipts, led to a deterioration in the overall fiscal deficit. BMI forecasted the deficit to fall to 7.78 percent of GDP in 2003, dropping again to 7.35 percent in 2004, as the cost of debt servicing begins to decline. “Despite improvement in the fiscal situation, much more needs to be done to address the rising public debt, which remains the core problem,” said the report, which noted that the government has successfully pursued a policy of converting expensive domestic debt into cheaper foreign debt.

Beirut 10-11-2003
Tarek El Zein
The Daily Star



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