Lebanon’s Economic Outlook- April 2017

The election of President Michel Aoun in October 2016 after almost two and a half years of a presidential vacancy, and the subsequent formation of a unity government, have resuscitated the political process in Lebanon. Nonetheless, the protracted Syrian conflict is exacerbating the country’s vulnerabilities and remains an impediment to the return to potential growth. For the fifth year, Lebanon re-mains the largest host (on a per capita basis) for displaced Syrians, which has significantly strained already weak public finances in a situation of limited international assistance.

In 2016, Lebanon’s real GDP growth accelerated slightly to reach an estimated 1.8%, compared to 1.3% in 2015. This was driven by an improvement in the real estate sector—cement deliveries expanded by 4.4% in 2016 compared to a contraction of 8.6% in 2015—as well as continued increase in tourist arrivals. From the demand side, private consumption continues to be a principal driver, helped by improved security conditions and low oil prices.

The boost to confidence generated from the resumption of the political process in combination with easing of tensions with the GCC following President Aoun’s visit to the region in January 2017, are likely to translate into a pick-up in GDP growth in 2017, which we project at 2.5%. Specifically, a stronger real estate sector as well as a continued increase in tourist arrivals are expected to lead to a pickup in economic activity in 2017. Lebanon’s economic prospects over the medium term are highly affected by geopolitical and security conditions, and those remain volatile. Projections assume that the Syrian war persists and that spillovers into Lebanon, while significant, remain contained. Based on this, we forecast growth over the medium term to remain around 2.5% annually.