Lebanese tourism and economic growth worn down by Syrian violence

Mar 04, 2013 12:51 pm

Skift Take

As terrible as the Syrian violence is, it’s refreshingly shocking that, for once, Lebanon hasn’t been pulled into yet another war because of the actions of its meddling, small-minded neighbors.

— Jason Clampet

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Giorgio Montersino  / Flickr

A tourist poses in Baalbek, Lebanon in 2010. Giorgio Montersino / Flickr

Lebanon’s small open economy is not expected to grow particularly fast in 2013 due to the uncertainty of the sectarian violence in neighboring Syria, economy and trade minister Nicolas Nahas said on Monday.

“GDP (gross domestic product) is $40 billion. Due to the Syria crisis and the effect on the (Lebanese) tourism sector, I think we get 2 percent growth in 2012,” Nahas said in an interview with Reuters.

Nahas said he wants to highlight to investors the resiliency of the economy through years of on-and-off conflict and war. He is in New York to speak to investors for the Lebanon Capital Markets day sponsored by emerging markets brokerage Auerbach Grayson.

Lebanon, a nation of about four million people, enjoyed GDP growth of around 7 to 8 percent annually from 2007 to 2010, but that fell off sharply in 2011 after domestic political tensions were followed by the start of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria.

“I think, if we get the election in time, that will give a boost to the economy and we get back into the 5 to 6 percent range,” he said, referring to parliamentary elections due to take place in the summer.

Deep-seated sectarian tensions in Lebanon, which fought a ruinous civil war from 1975 to 1990, have been exacerbated by the conflict in Syria, where majority Muslims are fighting to overthrow Assad, who is from the Alawite minority which has its roots in Shi’ite Islam.

“In past years, when there has been a crisis, the growth was down to an average of 2 to 4 percent. Whenever the situation was clear, and there was a kind of easing inside and outside, we were reaching 6 to 9 percent. This pattern has been seen all the time,” Nahas said.

Reporting by Daniel Bases. Editing by James Dalgleish.

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