A version of this article appeared in the Daily Star on Wednesday the 17th of October 2018.
It is widely known that data in Lebanon is lacking and difficult to access in cases where it does exist. By comparing Lebanon’s economic database and its publishing frequency to that of the US, we attempt to offer an “ordre de grandeur” to our data gap. This is an important preliminary step to a desired level where Lebanon’s economic database can be rich, sound, well-maintained and, most importantly, published in a timely manner. Absent reliable data, it is difficult to qualify any economic program as “policy making” or even an “educated guess”.
The most popular economic indicator, Gross Domestic Product, is published with an important time-lag in Lebanon. In 2018, Lebanon’s Central Administration of Statistics (CAS) published the country’s 2016 national accounts; this is in striking contrast to the quarterly publishing of GDP data in the US by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the US, the first GDP estimate is published exactly one month after the end of each quarter and second and third estimates are published in the following months.
Timeliness in the release of economic data is crucial. Markets usually mark their calendars and base their forecasts according to the release schedule of US economic data. Meanwhile in Lebanon, with some exceptions, one has to run random website checks for updated information. Policy making and even research projects are therefore significantly impaired due to the irregular release of economic data.
The BLOM Lebanon PMI partially palliates the lack of quarterly GDP figures. By drawing a parallel between PMI levels and GDP growth, an implied growth can be deduced from the PMI readings that are published each month. The average PMI reading of 46.2 in the first nine months of the year pointed towards a real GDP growth of 1% over the period and also substantiates our estimate that growth for the entire year will not surpass 1%. The recent World Bank and IMF growth revisions also pointed to a real GDP growth of 1% in 2018.
To read the full report, click below:
An Assessment of Lebanon’s Economic Database –