IMF urges Lebanon to make ‘immediate and substantial’ fiscal adjustment

Prime Minister Saad Hariri has promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by five percent over five years. (AFP)
Updated 22 June 2018
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IMF urges Lebanon to make ‘immediate and substantial’ fiscal adjustment

  • Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is the third largest in the world
  • Donor states and institutions are looking to Lebanon to implement the reforms in order to release billions of dollars worth of financing pledged at a conference in Paris in April

BEIRUT: Lebanon requires “an immediate and substantial” fiscal adjustment to improve the sustainability of public debt that stood at more than 150 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) at the end of 2017, the IMF executive board said.
An IMF statement released overnight said IMF executive directors agreed with the thrust of a staff appraisal which in February urged Lebanon to immediately anchor its fiscal policy in a consolidation plan that stabilizes debt as a share of GDP and then puts it on a clear downward path.
Lebanon’s debt to GDP ratio is the third largest in the world.
“Directors stressed that an immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment is essential to improve debt sustainability, which will require strong and sustained political commitment,” the IMF executive board statement said.
It reiterated estimates of low economic growth of 1-1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018. “The traditional drivers of growth in Lebanon are subdued with real estate and construction weak and a strong rebound is unlikely soon,” it said.
“Going forward, under current policies growth is projected to gradually increase toward 3 percent over the medium term.”
Lebanon’s economy has been hit by the war in neighboring Syria. Annual growth rates have fallen to between 1 and 2 percent, from between 8 and 10 percent in the four years before the Syrian war. Two former pillars of the economy, Gulf Arab tourism and high-end real estate, have suffered.
Caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri has been designated to form a new government following parliamentary elections last month, Lebanon’s first since 2009, and has stressed the need for the state to see through long-delayed economic reforms.
Donor states and institutions are looking to Lebanon to implement the reforms in order to release billions of dollars worth of financing pledged at a conference in Paris in April. In Paris, Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by five percent over five years.
The directors “noted that a well-defined fiscal strategy, including a combination of revenue and spending measures, amounting to about 5 percentage points of GDP, is ambitious but necessary” to stabilize public debt and put it on a declining path over the medium term.
They recommended increasing VAT rates, restraining public wages, and gradually eliminating electricity subsidies. Last year the government spent $1.3 billion subsidizing the state power provider — 13 percent of primary expenditures.


UAE property developers’ earnings give Gulf markets a boost

Updated 17 February 2019
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UAE property developers’ earnings give Gulf markets a boost

  • Real estate sector gets confidence boost
  • DAMAC gains despite 87 pct drop in Q4 net profits

DUBAI: Most stock markets in the Middle East closed higher on Sunday, reflecting a rally in global stock markets on Friday, and were also boosted by better-than-expected company results, particularly in real estate.

The Abu Dhabi index gained 0.7 percent and the Dubai index 0.6 percent, as two of the largest property developers in the United Arab Emirates posted positive fourth-quarter financial results last week that beat market expectations.

“The market is starting to rebuild confidence in earnings as a driver for sentiment,” said Arqaam Capital in a research note. “Sentiment on the UAE was very weak in 2018, specifically for real estate, on concerns over oversupply risk, pricing pressure that is leading to extended payment plans, and a rental yield compression that is continuing to fall,” Arqaam said.

“But Q4 numbers provided evidence that a few developers have emerged as winners (Emaar Co’s, Aldar) out of market consolidation.” Emaar Properties, Dubai’s largest listed developer, reported a 27 percent rise in fourth-quarter profit.

The stock rose 2 percent on Sunday. DAMAC Properties closed up 0.8 percent, despite having reported a nearly 60 percent fall in full-year profit and an 87 percent drop in fourth-quarter net profits.

In Abu Dhabi, Aldar Properties gained 3.6 percent. Last week, the developer reported a rise in fourth-quarter earnings and higher dividends for 2018. In other sectors, Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank rose 0.5 percent after saying it had no merger and acquisition plans. This was in response to a Bloomberg report last week which said the bank was considering such options.

The Saudi index closed 0.4 percent down, in contrast to the rest of the region’s markets. Arab National Bank reported an increase in full- year net profit to 3.13 billion riyals ($834.62 million) from 3.03 billion riyals one year earlier.

The stock remained unchanged and this failed to give support to the banking sector. Alinma Bank < 1150.SE> and Al Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. lost 0.3 percent and 0.6 percent, respectively.

In Egypt, where the main index gained 1.4 percent, Orascom Investment Holding, up 3.2 percent, was among the stocks attracting the highest trading volume. Shares in the company jumped last week after its chairman, Egyptian billionaire businessman Naguib Sawiris, said he saw possible investment opportunities in North Korea if a summit between its leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump later this month was successful.

SAUDI The index lost 0.4 pct to 8,592 points ARABIA DUBAI The index rose 0.6 pct to 2,550 points ABU DHABI The index rose 0.7 pct to 5,070 points QATAR The index gained 0.7 pct to 10,011 points EGYPT The index rose 1.4 pct to 15,199 points KUWAIT The index gainedd 0.1 pct to 5,427 points OMAN The index was down 0.8 pct at 4,077 points BAHRAIN

The index went up 0.6 pct to 1,381 points ($1 = 3.7502 riyals)