Rami Rayess is editor-in-chief of Lebanese Al Anbaa Electronic Newspaper (anbaaonline.com) and spokesman for the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon.

  • Lebanon’s economy on the verge of collapse, On: Sun, 13 Aug 2017

  • Lebanon feels the brunt of rising regional tensions, On: Sun, 23 Jul 2017

  • Consensus inevitable as Lebanon’s political map is redrawn, On: Sun, 18 Jun 2017

  • In Lebanon, political void is not an option , On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • Dim prospects for Lebanon’s economy, On: Sun, 04 Jun 2017

  • Where does Lebanon stand six months after Aoun’s accession?, On: Sun, 14 May 2017

  • Is Lebanon heading towards a new political crisis?, On: Sun, 02 Apr 2017

  • The recipe for chaos in Lebanon , On: Sun, 05 Mar 2017

  • Is this the new face of fascism in the West?, On: Sun, 19 Feb 2017

  • Lebanon: Will the momentum be squandered?, On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Lebanon’s state of paralysis , On: Sun, 11 Sep 2016

  • Dim prospects for electing a new Lebanese president , On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • Lebanon’s economy on the verge of collapse

    Once the law becomes fact, the additional expenditure is going to increase the strain on Lebanon’s stretched finances.

    Spiralling challenges. Lebanon’s Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil speaking during a news conference in Beirut. (Reuters)

    2017/08/13 Issue: 119 Page: 19

    Lebanon’s first public budget in 12 years is expected to see the light of day in the coming weeks. Af­ter years of political deadlock, the pass­ing of the budget would mark a significant step forward.

    However, encumbered by seemingly insurmountable levels of debt, a refugee population the country cannot turn its back on and few financial resources avail­able for additional investment, passing a budget is unlikely to do much to address the country’s structural economic shortfall.

    Historically, Lebanon has done little to help itself. Over­looking the repeated failures to meet constitutionally mandated deadlines to agree a budget, Lebanon’s government figures show almost crippling levels of expenditure. Approximately one-third of spending is allocated for salaries and wages while 30% services the public debt and 9% goes towards the electricity sector.

    In total, 72% of Lebanon’s total expenditure is already fixed. Consequently, the government’s ability to initiate fundamental developmental projects or to indulge in serious reform is ham­strung before it even starts and that is unlikely to improve.

    Indicators predict public debt is expected to exceed $80 billion by the end of this year, equal to 146% of Lebanon’s gross domes­tic product.

    This is not to say that the gov­ernment is unwilling to make a bad situation worse. Pre-empting the passage of the budget was the decision in July to issue a draft law offering the country’s civil servants their first notable wage increase since 1997. Few would argue that it’s not de­served.

    However, once the president’s signature renders the law a fact, the additional expenditure is going to increase the strain on the country’s stretched finances, a fact acknowledged by Lebanese President Michel Aoun, who intimated that the budget should have been agreed first.

    Should the president refuse to sign the draft law, discussion on the topic will have to start over, achieving nothing and pleasing no one.

    Adding to the country’s eco­nomic woes are the 1.5 million Syrians who have sought refuge within their neighbour’s borders and whose presence exerts pres­sure on the country’s groaning infrastructure. True, much of the country’s internal infrastruc­ture was overhauled entirely during the 1990s. However, no amount of renovation could have anticipated the strain placed on Lebanon’s internal structures and the cost of maintaining them.

    There is little that is new in this. Historically, Lebanon’s political class has proven itself consistently incapable of separat­ing economic questions from the political issues that continue to obsess it. Except for one full-fledged developmental plan based on an extensive economic study from the 1960s, the coun­try’s economy has rarely been given the chance to experience any period of real recovery based on any kind of pragmatic fact-based basis.

    The political community in Lebanon, itself based on an in­grained system of clientelism, cannot help but constantly in­terfere in the drafting of econom­ic plans, attempting to increase its political, geographical and electoral advantages, irrespective of the actual needs of the various sectors and regions.

    Much of this political med­dling has gone without any serious comment. Discussions on economic policy have always been shelved as soon as political tensions, of whatever hue, arise, meaning that no sustained dis­cussion on the country’s shared national economic future has yet to take place.

    All told, Lebanon is facing the perfect economic storm. Looking at the spiralling challenges posed by the refugee crisis, allied with the pressures from the antici­pated US sanctions on Hezbol­lah and its allies, unmanageable debt and the administration’s hardwired inability to face the challenges ahead of it, it is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Lebanese economy is on the point of collapse.

    Editors' Picks

    The Arab Weekly Newspaper reaches Western & Arabic audience that are influential as well as being affluent.

    From Europe to the Middle East,and North America, The Arab Weekly talks to opinion formers and influential figures, providing insight and comment on national, international and regional news through the focus of Arabic countries and community.

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Publisher and Group Executive Editor: Haitham El-Zobaidi, PhD

    Editor-in-Chief: Oussama Romdhani

    Managing Editor: Iman Zayat

    Deputy Managing Editor and Online Editor: Mamoon Alabbasi

    Senior Editor: John Hendel

    Chief Copy Editor: Richard Pretorius

    Copy Editor: Stephen Quillen

    Analysis Section Editor: Ed Blanche

    East/West Section Editor: Mark Habeeb

    Gulf Section Editor: Mohammed Alkhereiji

    Society and Travel Sections Editor: Samar Kadi

    Syria and Lebanon Sections Editor: Simon Speakman Cordall

    Contributing Editor: Rashmee Roshan Lall

    Senior Correspondents: Mahmud el-Shafey (London) & Lamine Ghanmi (Tunis)

    Regular Columnists

    Claude Salhani

    Yavuz Baydar


    Saad Guerraoui (Casablanca)

    Dunia El-Zobaidi (London)

    Roua Khlifi (Tunis)

    Thomas Seibert (Washington)

    Chief Designer: Marwen Hmedi


    Ibrahim Ben Bechir

    Hanen Jebali

    Published by Al Arab Publishing House

    Contact editor at:editor@thearabweekly.com

    Subscription & Advertising: Ads@alarab.co.uk

    Tel 020 3667 7249

    Mohamed Al Mufti

    Marketing & Advertising Manager

    Tel (Main) +44 20 6702 3999

    Direct: +44 20 8742 9262


    Al Arab Publishing House

    Kensington Centre

    177-179 Hammersmith Road

    London W6 8BS , UK

    Tel: (+44) 20 7602 3999

    Fax: (+44) 20 7602 8778

    Follow Us
    © The Arab Weekly, All rights reserved