Lebanon needs political action to avoid economic collapse -finance minister

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil made the remarks following a meeting with the government’s economic and social council. (Reuters)
Updated 12 September 2018
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Lebanon needs political action to avoid economic collapse -finance minister

BEIRUT: Politicians in Lebanon, still lacking a government four months after national elections, need to take action to stop the country’s economic crisis becoming an economic collapse, its finance minister said on Wednesday.
Infighting has hampered efforts by Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri to form a national unity administration, leaving a political vacuum that has increased concerns for the highly-indebted economy.
“We are not concealing this crisis, but will this crisis inevitably lead us to a collapse? ... I say that with strong political commitment, political will and cooperation between all sectors we can avoid it,” caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said.
His comments, which followed a meeting with the government’s economic and social council, were televised. Asked by Reuters what he meant by collapse, he replied “the economic situation.”
Leaders from across the political spectrum agree a government urgently needs to be formed, but a deal remains elusive.
Its formation would be likely to help raise investor confidence in the country, unlock billions of dollars in donor funding and enable parliament to embark on long-overdue reforms.
In April, international donors meeting in Paris pledged more than $11 billion of investment, but they want evidence of economic reforms first. At that meeting Hariri promised to reduce the budget deficit as a percentage of GDP by 5 percent over five years.
Lebanon had the world’s third highest debt-to-GDP ratio, at over 150 percent, at the end of 2017. The International Monetary Fund wants to see immediate and substantial fiscal adjustment to improve debt sustainability.
On Wednesday, parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said Lebanon did not have the luxury of time when it came to forming a government “especially when it comes to the economic situation.”
Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh has said the Lebanese pound, which is pegged to the dollar, will remain stable and that the central bank has high foreign reserves.
He reiterated those comments to broadcaster CNBC on Tuesday.
Lebanon’s foreign assets excluding gold were $43.56 billion at the end of August, according to central bank data.


Stronger US dollar unlikely to derail bullish view on commodities — Goldman Sachs

Updated 21 September 2018
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Stronger US dollar unlikely to derail bullish view on commodities — Goldman Sachs

  • The dollar has been lifted by a stronger-than-expected US economy, the world’s largest
  • A stronger greenback makes the purchase of dollar-denominated international commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies

BENGALURU: Goldman Sachs said a stronger dollar is unlikely to derail its bullish view on commodities, which are likely to find support from physical shortages.
The dollar has been lifted by a stronger-than-expected US economy, the world’s largest, and that’s a positive sign for global growth, the US investment bank said.
The US dollar index has lost more than 1 percent this week, but this follows months of strong demand over US-China trade-related tensions, as investors bet the greenback would gain at the expense of riskier currencies.
“The risk aversion this summer created significant emerging market destocking, particularly in China, as consumers attempted to avoid a strong dollar and tariffs by liquidating inventories,” Goldman said in a note dated on Thursday.
A stronger greenback makes the purchase of dollar-denominated international commodities more expensive for holders of other currencies, making buyers and users more likely to draw on any stored materials in preference to imports.
“This liquidation, however, has a physical limit with Chinese destocking having already created significant increases in physical (premiums) for oil and metals – a sign of physical shortages.”
Going forward, oil had a strong fundamental outlook helped by US demand growth, supply losses and disruptions, and still constrained US shale output, Goldman said.
The bank said its near-term Brent crude oil price target remained at $80 a barrel.
The bank said it was moderating its bullish view for gold due to a sell-off in emerging markets, and it lowered its 12-month price forecast for the metal to $1,325 per ounce, down from $1,450 an ounce earlier.