IMF extends visit to crisis-hit Lebanon: sources

Prime Minister Hassan Diab, right, meets with a delegation from the International Monetary Fund in this February 19, 2020 picture provided by the Lebanese photo agency Dalati and Nohra. (Dalati and Nohra/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 February 2020

IMF extends visit to crisis-hit Lebanon: sources

  • The IMF began meetings with Lebanese authorities on February 20 to provide broad technical advice
  • Lebanon is grappling with an acute liquidity crunch that has prompted banks fearing capital flight to impose strict controls

BEIRUT: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) will continue meetings with Lebanese authorities on Monday, sources familiar with the process said, extending a visit to provide technical advice that was expected to end on Sunday.
The IMF began meetings with Lebanese authorities on Feb. 20 to provide broad technical advice on how to tackle the country’s crippling financial and economic crisis. The fund had said its team would stay until Feb. 23.
Lebanon has not requested financial assistance from the IMF as it draws up a rescue plan to tackle a long-brewing financial crisis that spiraled last year as capital inflows slowed and protests erupted against the ruling elite.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)


The sources familiar with the meetings said talks would continue until the Lebanese government made a decision on issues related to the technical assistance. The results of the meetings were “positive,” they added, without specifying further.
Lebanon is grappling with an acute liquidity crunch that has prompted banks fearing capital flight to impose strict controls. The Lebanese pound has slumped by about 60 percent on a parallel market, hiking inflation.
Saddled with one of the highest public debt burdens in the world, Beirut must decide quickly what to do about fast-approaching debt payments including a $1.2 billion Eurobond maturing on March 9.
Global credit ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s (S&P) and Moody’s downgraded Lebanon’s credit rating deeper into junk territory on Friday, citing anticipated losses to creditors from what they said was a likely debt restructuring.


UK retail sales shoot past pre-virus levels as shoppers migrate online

Supermarkets such as Sainsbury’s have avoided many of the problems plaguing the rest of the retail sector amid the coronavirus pandemic. (Reuters)
Updated 9 min 52 sec ago

UK retail sales shoot past pre-virus levels as shoppers migrate online

  • Britain suffered the biggest economic hit of any G7 economy between April and June, when output fell by more than 20 percent

LONDON: British shoppers continued to increase spending last month, taking sales further above pre-COVID levels, as strong online demand helped much of the sector enjoyed a faster rebound than the rest of the economy.
Retail sales volumes rose by 0.8 percent in August, the Office for National Statistics said — slightly above the average 0.7 percent forecast in a Reuters poll — and, compared with a year earlier, they were up 2.8 percent, just below forecasts of 3 percent annual growth.
British retail sales had already overtaken pre-COVID levels in July and now stand 4 percent higher than before the crisis.
However, the rebound masks a sharp split between online and high-street retailers, with online and mail order retailing up 34.4 percent on the year in August, while many traditional retailers outside the grocery sector have suffered reduced footfall.
“Clothing stores continued to struggle, with sales still well below their February level. Overall, the switch to greater online sales means the high street remains under pressure,” ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow said.
The crisis in traditional retailing is having a knock-on effect for commercial landlords, with many stores closing and tenants such as clothing chain New Look seeking to renegotiate rents to link them to turnover.

FASTFACT

British retail sales now stand 4 percent higher than before the crisis.

Clothing sales rose by 13.5 percent on the month, but are still 15.5 percent down on the year.
Grocery sales rose just 0.4 percent in August, after strong growth in previous months when British people had eaten at home more.
August saw a temporary government promotion for dining in restaurants, named “Eat Out to Help Out,” which earlier industry data suggested had dented grocery demand.
The Bank of England (BoE) said on Thursday that Britain’s economy was on course to recover faster than it had forecast in August, but, even so, output in the July-September period is expected to be 7 percent lower than in the final quarter of last year.
Britain suffered the biggest economic hit of any G7 economy between April and June, when output fell by more than 20 percent.
The BoE identified consumer demand as one of the brighter spots, but said it was vulnerable to an upsurge in COVID-19 cases as well as an increase in unemployment when the government’s temporary job support program ends next month.