Private sector operating conditions deteriorate, but at the slowest rate since May

The BLOM Lebanon Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose from 45.8 in September to 46.2 in October 2018, on account of softer contractions in output, new orders and new exports. Hence, the GDP growth implied by the BLOM Lebanon PMI still stands at 1% and cements the idea that we will not surpass this mark in the year 2018. On the political front, the lengthier the political deadlock, the harder it will be to restore confidence in the economy.

We are also witnessing a crowding out of the private sector by the public sector due to higher interest rates. According to the Central Bank of Lebanon, claims on resident and non-resident customers slid by 1.09% since year-start to reach $58.87 billion by August 2018.

In the meantime, public debt is continuing to swell as it reached $83.69 billion by August 2018. According to the Association of Lebanese Banks (ABL), the country’s gross public debt increased by an annual 8.31% on the back of an 18.64% year-on-year (y-o-y) rise in foreign currency debt and a 1.82% y-o-y uptick in local currency debt.

Average inflation continued to increase on the back of higher energy prices and housing costs. According to the Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), average inflation reached 6.10% by September 2018 compared to an average of 4.32% in the same period in 2017. In details, The average costs of “Housing and utilities” (water, electricity, gas and other fuels) constituting a combined 28.4% of the Consumer Price Index or CPI, rose by 6.64% year-on-year (y-o-y) by September 2018.

On the upside, tourist spending figures for the third quarter of 2018 were hopeful. According to Global Blue, tourist spending in Lebanon added 5.41% by Q3 2018, compared to Q3 2017. The rise can be linked to the 3.88% yearly increase in tourist arrivals to 1.51M by September 2018. Tourists from the Arab countries remained the largest spenders in Lebanon, with Saudis, Emiratis, Syrians and Kuwaitis in particular grasping shares of 12%, 11%, 9% and 7% of total spending, respectively.

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