Lebanese economic growth zero if not negative, acknowledges Finance Minister Khalil

Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil, right, and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, centre, during a cabinet meeting in Beirut. (Reuters)
Updated 18 September 2019

Lebanese economic growth zero if not negative, acknowledges Finance Minister Khalil

  • Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said Lebanon will very soon start measures to issue about $2 billion of foreign currency bonds
  • One of the world’s most heavily indebted states, Lebanon is aiming to drive through long-postponed reforms to put the public finances on a sustainable path

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s economic growth is zero if not negative, leading to pressure on the central bank’s foreign currency reserves, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Wednesday.
Khalil also said Lebanon will “very soon” start measures to issue about $2 billion of foreign currency bonds.
In response to questions about difficulties some Lebanese have faced in obtaining dollars, Khalil said that “there was not much liquidity in people’s hands” but that this had “no impact” and that banks were maintaining the pegged exchange rate.
Khalil was giving details at a news conference of the 2020 draft state budget, which is aimed at reducing the deficit. The new budget would include no new taxes or fees, he said.
“The level of growth went back to zero, if not negative, and therefore this matter led to an increase in the pressure on (the central bank) reserve in foreign currencies, (and) the accumulation of the deficit in the treasury,” Khalil said.
The cost of debt servicing had also moved higher with increased interest rates, he said.
One of the world’s most heavily indebted states, Lebanon is aiming to drive through long-postponed reforms to put the public finances on a sustainable path.
The impetus has grown due to a stagnant economy and a slowdown in inflows of hard currency from Lebanese abroad, which has long been a key source of financing for the state and its current account deficit.
The Lebanese pound has been pegged at its current level against the US dollar for more than two decades and the government has vowed it will be kept there.
Some Lebanese importers say they have found it harder or more expensive to acquire dollars in recent weeks.
“The economic situation is tough but we are not a collapsing country at the financial level ... and we still have the ability to meet needs,” Khalil said. “Yes, there is not much liquidity in foreign currencies in people’s hands in the market, but the dollar exchange rate is still maintained in the banks.
“What we are feeling is that small cash in people’s hands is not available, outside the framework of (bank) transactions ... but we want to say that this has no impact,” he added.


Dubai airport hands out roses to Beirut passengers in a show of support

Updated 09 August 2020

Dubai airport hands out roses to Beirut passengers in a show of support

  • Passengers arriving from Beirut in Dubai were handed white roses
  • “Rebuilding Lebanon is like rebuilding UAE,” a message attached to the roses read

DUBAI: Passengers arriving from Beirut in Dubai were handed white roses on Sunday in a heartfelt gesture of support following last week’s deadly blast. 
The 163 passengers boarding an Emirates airline flight who arrived at Dubai International Airport were gifted the roses from Dubai Customs workers. The flowers came with a message that quoted the founder of the UAE, the late President Sheikh Zayed Al-Nahyan.
The message reads: “Rebuilding Lebanon is like rebuilding UAE.”
Dubai Airport CEO Paul Griffiths said the act reflects the “spirit of kindness at the heart of the aviation community.”  
“I’m sure it has provided some measure of comfort for the Lebanese passengers during these very difficult times,” he said.
Like many other countries, the UAE has sent large shipments of aid to Lebanon since the explosion. 
The massive blasts at the Beirut port killed 158 people and injured 6,000.