World Economy

IMF Cautions Lebanon on Debt

IMF Cautions Lebanon on DebtIMF Cautions Lebanon on Debt

The International Monetary Fund has emphasized the urgent need for Lebanon to create a sustainable economy and halt the rise in public debt.

“To preserve confidence, there is an urgent need to place the economy on a sustainable path and halt the rise in public debt,” said Chris Jarvis, the mission chief for Egypt and an advisor at the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, imeinfo reported.

“Front-loaded fiscal adjustment is needed based on revenue measures, increasing tax compliance, increasing fuel taxation, and re-balanced spending, including by reducing costly electricity transfers,” Jarvis added in a statement following his visit to Beirut from September 7 to 13, 2017.

According to Lebanon This Week, a weekly report published by Byblos Bank, Lebanon’s gross public debt reached $76.7 billion at the end of May 2017, registering a rise by 7.3% from $71.5 billion at the end of May 2016.

On the other hand, the World Bank’s Lebanon Economic Monitor for spring 2017 estimated the overall increase in fiscal deficit by an estimated 1.8 percentage point to reach 10% of GDP, hitting double digits for the first time since 2006.

“While both revenues and expenditures rose during 2016, the latter outpaced the former. A marginally improving economy in 2016 helped push total revenues for government by an estimated 0.7 pp to reach 21% of GDP, driven by tax, non-tax and treasury revenues,” it said.

“However, this was more than offset by an estimated 2.5 pp rise in total expenditures to 31.1% of GDP, driven primarily by interest payments, payments of arrears and transfers to municipalities,” it added.

One of the main factors causing a large deficit in Lebanon is electricity which is heavily subsidized by the state-owned company and this is causing a financial deficit in the budget each year.

The Daily Star quoted ministry officials saying that EDL’s deficit has reached $1.5 billion due to the volatile prices of fuel oil in the international markets.

Jarvis said, “Passing a budget—the first in more than a decade—with reliable fiscal adjustment measures would send a strong signal of commitment to reduce public debt and will boost confidence.”

Jarvis added that despite the political progress made by Lebanon with the newly ratified electoral law, real growth is expected to remain low in 2017, while the external imbalance remains very large.






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