Middle East and Central Asia > Lebanon

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Ms. Marialuz Moreno Badia, Juliana Gamboa-Arbelaez, and Yuan Xiang
In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, debt levels in emerging and developing economies have surged raising concerns about fiscal sustainability. Historically, negative interest-growth differentials in these countries have played a debt-stabilizing role. But is this enough to prevent countries from falling into debt distress? Drawing from a sample of 150 emerging and developing economies going back to the 1970s, we find that interest-growth differentials have remained relatively low, dampening debt increases in the run up to a crisis. But in the face of persistent primary deficits, debt service tends to rise abruptly—particularly in emerging markets—and a fiscal crisis ensues. There is also evidence that a large part of the debt build-up around crises stems from valuation effects associated with external debt and the materialization of contingent liabilities. These findings underscore that, though not necessarily a red-herring, low interest-growth differentials cannot fully offset the deleterious effects of large fiscal deficits, forex exposures, or hidden debts.
Mr. Juan S Corrales and Patrick A. Imam
Using a newly complied and extended database from International Financial Statistics, and applying different panel-regression techniques, this paper documents the evolution of households’ and firms’ dollarization over the past decade. We assess the macroeconomic determinants of dollarization for households and firms and explore differences between high and low-income countries. We find that households’ and firms’ dollarization in loans and deposits are weakly explained by the currency substitution model, except in low income countries, where inflation plays a significant role. Instead, market development variables such as financial deepening, access to external debt and FX finance as well as other market considerations are key to explain the dynamics of deposits and loans dollarization, regardless of the level of income.These factors can account for a significant fraction of the dollarization, but using a variance decomposition model, there is evidence that a non-negligible portion has yet to be explained. This suggests that there are key determinants for household and firm dollarization that are not fully captured by traditional macroeconomic explanatory variables.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper analyzes the impact of the Syrian crisis on Lebanon’s economy. Output growth in Lebanon has fallen sharply since the onset of the Syrian crisis and is too low to accommodate new job seekers, or to address the needs of Lebanon’s more vulnerable population. Moreover, low growth is taking a toll on public debt dynamics, raising the prospect of higher borrowing costs and constrained social and investment spending—both are much needed to improve the quality of public spending and direct it toward more useful and productive uses. The authorities have presented an ambitious proposal to the international community, which centers on a multiyear effort to stimulate growth and employment through a targeted series of investment initiatives.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This 2016 Article IV Consultation highlights that Lebanon’s economic growth remains subdued. Following a sharp drop in 2011, growth edged upward briefly to 2–3 percent, but has now slowed again. The IMF staff estimates that GDP increased by 1 percent in 2015, and a similar growth rate in 2016 is projected. Lebanon’s traditional growth drivers—tourism, real estate, and construction—have received a significant blow and a strong rebound is unlikely based on current trends. In the absence of a turnaround in confidence, or a resolution of the Syrian conflict, growth is unlikely to return to potential (4 percent) soon.
International Monetary Fund. Research Dept.
In the June 2016 issue of IMF Research Bulletin, Eugenio Cerutti interviews Lars E.O. Svensson. Lars, a professor at the Stockholm School of Economics, was a Visiting Scholar at the IMF. In the interview, he discusses monetary policy, financial stability, and life at the IMF. The Bulletin also features a listing of recent Working Papers, Staff Discussion Notes, and key IMF publications. The table of contents from the latest issue of IMF Economic Review is also included.
Mr. Christian H Ebeke, Mr. Boileau Loko, and Arina Viseth
This paper analyzes the link between remittances inflows and nonperforming loans (NPLs) in a large sample of developing countries. Theoretical transmission channels include risk coping, exchange rate and growth impacts. Panel data estimates uncover the significant role of remittance inflows in reducing the size of NPLs in recipient economies. Econometric results also indicate a stronger marginal impact of remittances in a context of high macroeconomic instability, suggesting a significant effect of remittances on the likelihood of the private sector’s credit default during shocks. These results hold even after factoring in: (i) the endogeneity of remittance inflows and, (ii) the use of an alternative estimator (panel fractional logit) aimed at dealing with bounded dependent variables.
Miss Randa Sab
Using narrative-based country-case studies, war episodes in the Middle East were examined to assess their economic impact on conflict and neighboring economies. The paper found that conflicts led to a contraction in growth, higher inflation, large fiscal and current account deficits, loss of reserves, and a weakened financial system. Post-conflict recovery depended on the economic and institutional development of the country, economic structure, duration of the war, international engagement, and prevailing security conditions. The net economic impact on neighboring countries varied according to their initial economic conditions, number and income level of refugees they hosted, economic integration, and external assistance.
Mr. Yasser Abdih, Mr. Ralph Chami, Mr. Christian H Ebeke, and Mr. Adolfo Barajas
This paper identifies a remittances channel that transmits exogenous shocks, such as business cycles in remittance-sending countries, to the public finances of remittance-receiving countries. Using panel data for remittance-receiving countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and Central Asia, three types of results emerge. First, remittances appear to be strongly procyclical vis-à-vis sending country income. Second, remittances tend to be spent on consumption of both imported and domestically produced goods, rather than on investment. Third, shocks in the sending countries are transmitted via remittances to the public finances - specifically, tax revenues - of receiving countries. In the case of the 2009 global downturn, this impact was particularly strong for several countries in the Caucasus and Central Asia, whereas in the subsequent recovery in 2010 virtually all receiving countries benefitted from an upturn in remittance-driven tax revenues.