Middle East and Central Asia > Lebanon

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International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper studies the inefficiencies related to the electricity sector and assesses the potential impact of the 2019 reform plan. Electricity shortages are the second constraint to competitiveness reported by businesses in Lebanon, based on the Enterprise Survey conducted by the World Bank. Lebanon’s electricity sector performance is worse than other similar countries in the region. Many businesses must rely on costly private generators. Income inequalities are exacerbated by both the geographical disparities in Electricité du Liban’s (EdL) electricity provision and its tariff structure. The most vulnerable households are the small consumers located in regions with little electricity provision from EdL. A new electricity plan was approved by Cabinet on April 9, 2019 and ratified by Parliament on April 17, 2019. Although it is critical that the plan is decisively implemented, it is also important that it is enhanced further to fully restore EdL’s viability. Introducing well-targeted measures, such as cash transfers, would help protect the most vulnerable households from the tariff increase. As planned in the reform package, consumer tariffs should be indexed on the evolution of input prices to guarantee that it will not be negatively impacted by future developments in fuel or gas prices.
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.
Mario Mansour
This paper reviews trends in taxation and revenue in MENA countries over 1990-2012, with a focus on non-resource taxes. On average, non-resource revenues declined slightly, while resource revenues soared. Country experiences vary: rates of main taxes and their revenues tend to be higher in the Magreb than in the Mashreq, except for the value-added tax, where lower rates are associated with equal or higher revenue; most oil producers raise little tax revenues—generally less than 5 percent of GDP—and most have reduced them since the late 1990s. But there are similarities: unlike common experience around the world, income taxes (not indirect taxes) have partially compensated for lost revenue from trade liberalization; revenues from indirect taxes have remained stable; personal income taxes have played an unimportant role as a revenue tool; and fees and stamp duties are significant revenue sources. Looking forward, tax reform challenges will also vary across countries: the Maghreb needs to focus on efficiency-enhancing reforms, especially in capital income and consumption taxes; the Mashreq have some room to increase revenue; and, there are ample opportunities to improve equity and reduce complexity of tax systems in all countries. Finally, the recent decline in oil prices and revenues is a reminder that even resource-rich GCC countries need to lay the basis of a tax system for the future.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
KEY ISSUES Context: The economy is being severely tested by the Syria crisis. The refugee influx has reached one quarter of the population, fueling already high unemployment and poverty. The political impasse from the presidential elections—following months of negotiations over a new government—adds to the uncertainty. The economy is meanwhile suffering from a broad-based deterioration, with subdued growth and widening fiscal imbalances. Public debt is on the rise. Progress on structural reforms has been limited. On the positive side, deposit inflows have held up and foreign exchange reserves are sizeable; and security conditions have significantly improved, lifting tourism prospects. Key challenges: There is an urgent need for fiscal adjustment to achieve a sustainable debt reduction, and structural reforms to boost growth and address social inequities. Key policy recommendations: • Fiscal policy. The immediate priority is to stop the fiscal deterioration and return to primary surpluses, to avoid a possible loss of market confidence and put debt on a sustainable path. The consolidation strategy should minimize the impact of a planned salary increase for the public sector; include broad-based and non- distortionary revenue measures; and rebalance expenditure away from electricity transfers toward capital and social spending, to promote inclusive growth. Passing a budget for 2014 would help anchor confidence. Fiscal management should be strengthened and anchored in a medium-term perspective. • Monetary policy. The Banque du Liban (BdL) should continue to maintain high foreign exchange reserves as a buffer and signal of commitment to macro-financial stability. It should gradually withdraw from T-bill auctions, and adopt a strategy to improve its balance sheet over time. • Financial sector. Capital buffers should be strengthened, and the loan classification and restructuring rules and the AML/CFT regime further enhanced. • Structural reforms. Reforms in the electricity sector and the labor market are imperative to address current competitiveness pressures, lay the foundations for higher-productivity growth, and improve social conditions. • Refugee crisis. Lebanon cannot shoulder the costs of the massive inflow of Syrian refugees alone, and international budget support is needed. Strong government commitment to adjustment and reforms—along with a concerted policy framework to deal with the refugee crisis—would bolster credibility and help mobilize support.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This Selected Issues paper investigates the macroeconomic impact of the Syria crisis on Jordan. It is indicated that the crisis: (1) had an overall negative impact on measured output growth—although anecdotal evidence suggests possibly a positive impact on output in the informal sector; (2) contributed to inflationary pressures, particularly on rents; and (3) strained labor markets, mostly in the informal sector as refugees compete with locals for jobs. Although the crisis has put a strain on the external trade balance, the overall impact on the current account is not clear.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.
This chapter reviews developments in GDP over the past several decades. The analysis shows that accumulation of labor and capital explains the bulk of overall output growth since 1990, with changes in total factor productivity playing only a minor role. Moreover, while increases in total factor productivity (TFP) during 1990-2009 have been close to the worldwide average, the pace of TFP growth fell during the 2000s. This suggests scope for increasing the efficiency of factor markets and highlights the importance of recent reforms to promote knowledge-based activity.
International Monetary Fund
This report reviews Lebanon’s performance under the program supported by emergency post-conflict assistance. The 2007 program is broadly on track. Despite a difficult political environment, all end-September targets were met, except for the monitorable action on raising gasoline excises. Fiscal revenues were stronger than expected. Owing to strong deposit inflows, the central bank accumulated international reserves at a faster pace than targeted. The end-December monitorable action on inviting expressions of interest to participate in the privatization of two mobile phone networks was effectively met in November.
International Monetary Fund. Middle East and Central Asia Dept.

Abstract

Strong economic performance across the Middle East and Central Asia is examined against the background of high prices for energy and other commodities. Common economic trends are presented, while prospects and policies are reviewed for the coming year in light of the global economic environment. This latest REO includes boxes treating specific regional topics, such as financial sector reforms and integration in Maghreb countries; economic developments in oil-exporting countries in response to changes in petroleum prices; and the growth boom in the Caucasus and Central Asia.

Mr. Jean-Paul Bodin and William Joseph Crandall
The paper provides an overview of revenue administration reforms implemented in Middle Eastern and North African countries over the past decade with IMF assistance. Although reforming tax and customs administration is neither quick nor simple, several countries in the region have embarked on comprehensive programs of reforms to modernize their revenue administration, and encouraging progress has been achieved. Experience shows that there are many challenges to be faced and that critical requirements need to be met, including political commitment, strong leadership, willingness to abandon ineffective practices; and establishment of reform projects with clear mandates, agreed objectives, and realistic timeframes.
Ms. Rina Bhattacharya
This paper integrates a two-period overlapping generations model with a standard two-sector Hecksher-Ohlin trade model and analyzes the impact of uncertainty on domestic investment in the exportable and importable sectors, the political economy linkages between trade and financial liberalization, and the implications for sequencing. Under certain assumptions financial liberalization leads to a movement of resources in the opposite direction to that implied by trade liberalization, thus defeating one of the objectives of tariff reform. When political economy linkages are taken into account, however, the indirect effects of financial liberalization may offset the direct effects and encourage a movement of resources in the desired direction.