Lebanon is relatively a small country with a population estimated at closely 5.8 million (2015), up from an estimate of 3.2 million in 2000. Lebanon hosts closely 1.6 million refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Syria (1.14 million, 2014) and Palestine (450,000 2014). The impact of the Syrian crisis has been significant on Lebanon. By the end of 2014, 170,000 Lebanese were pushed into poverty, when already one million Lebanese were living below the national poverty datum and around 30% of the population lived on the less than 4 USD/day. As of 31 January 2016, there were 1,067,785 registered refugees in Lebanon. The population is currently growing at 3.2% per year, with high urbanization rate, reaching 87.6% in 2014.
The health system is quite developed with a high life expectancy of 79.5 years in 2015 and low levels of maternal mortality and infant mortality, reaching 15 per 100,000 and 7.1 per 1,000, respectively. The fertility rate is considered low, at an average of each woman giving birth to 1.7 children approximately in 2015.
Lebanon made a significant stride in its adult literacy rate, leveling at 94% in 2015, compared to an average of 80.5% in the Arab region in 2015.  However, the gross primary enrollment rate declined from 131.0% in 2000 to 97.2% in 2013. The Gender Parity Index (GPI) remained relatively equal, dropping slightly from 1.0 in 2000 to 0.9 in 2013. At the tertiary level, gross enrollment increased from 38.3% in 2000 to 42.8% in 2014, compared to an average rate of 28.1% in the Arab region in 2013. At the same time, the GPI at the tertiary level reached 1.2 in 2014, slightly exceeding the average rate of 1.1 in the Arab region.
Lebanon is an upper-middle-income country with a GDP of Int$ 77 billion (Purchasing Power Parity, constant 2011 prices) and a GNI per capita (Purchasing Power Parity) leveling around Int$ 14,120 in 2015. In 2013, real estate and trade were the highest contributors to economic growth at 14% and 13% of GDP respectively.
The GDP growth rate has been seriously affected by the Syrian refugee crisis and its political and socio-economic repercussions. After reaching a level of 10.3% in 2009, the GDP growth (constant 2005 prices) dropped sharply to 0.9% in 2011. It has then increased to an average of 2.3%. With this below-capacity operation and given the lower international oil prices, inflation has declined from 6.6% in 2012 to -3.7% in 2015. At the macro-fiscal level, the cash deficit tightened to LBP 4,632 billion in 2014, down from LBP 6,362 billion in 2013. In 2014, Lebanon recorded a primary surplus of LBP 1,970 billion, largely resulting from high telecom transfers, but public finances continue to be structurally weak and in need of reforms. In2015, the government debt reached 139% of GDP, knowing that it was 138% of GDP in 2010.
The Lebanese economy is mainly based on the services sector. The services exports in 2014 were three times higher than the goods exports. Lebanon's exports and imports of commercial services mainly consist of construction, tourism, and financial services.
International trade to GDP ratio has more than doubled in the last fifteen years, going up from 50% in 2000 to 110% in 2014. Foreign trade in Lebanon has been characterized by a significant level of imports and by substantial trade deficits. While exports to GDP ratio scored 40% in 2014, the imports to GDP ratio reached 70%. The trade deficits are mainly counterbalanced by capital inflows, remittances, tourism, and banking sectors; the external balance to GDP ratio scored -30% in 2014.
Lebanon’s main exports consist of precious metals, pearls, manufactures exports, and ICT service exports, while the main imports consist of fuel and mining products, machinery and transport equipment, and chemicals. The EU remains the first trading partner of Lebanon since 2012, covering slightly more than 34% of Lebanese trade.
Free Trade Agreements were signed with Lebanon’s major trading partners; namely the EFTA States (Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Iceland) and the Gulf Cooperation Countries (GCC); and a full establishment of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA) was achieved in 2005. Lebanon signed an Association Agreement with the EU in 2002, which entered into force in 2006. Lebanon is in the process of negotiations for accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Unemployment in Lebanon indicates that the rates are higher among women (11.1%) than men (5.7%) in 2015, especially among youth, where female youth unemployment rate registered 24.6% compared to 20.2% for men in 2015. In addition, unemployment is higher among people holding university degrees, which accounted for 8.79% in 2009, noting that high-skilled youth usually search for better opportunities in Gulf countries, Europe and America.
The private sector represents the highest share of employment in Lebanon, of an average 86.8% of all workers, compared to only 12.3% of workers in public sector. As for employment distribution by economic activity, the services sector absorbs the highest percentage, at 36.7% of the employed Lebanese, followed by the trade sector at 27% in 2009.
Lebanon relies heavily on energy imports to meet its domestic demand, as the country does not own energy resources. In 2012, the country imported 127 thousand barrels per day of refined petroleum products.
Lebanon has been working on oil and gas exploration since the early 1990s. The government published a petroleum policy in September 2007 but this policy wasn’t taken seriously. In December 2012, the Lebanese Petroleum Administration (LPA) was established to manage the petroleum sector in Lebanon.
The Lebanese government announced that the country could have natural gas located in its offshore territory. Many pre-qualification bids were offered by companies for exploration in the country’s territorial waters, but the country energy ministry delayed the bid several times due to border disputes over the southern boundary of Lebanese territorial waters with Israel.
This overview has been drafted by the ADP team based on most available data as of 30 September 2016.