Lebanon Lebanon

Statistical Snapshot

 

Lebanon is a relatively small country with an estimated population of 6.9 million,[1] and a low fertility rate of 2.1 birth per woman.[2] Lebanon hosts around 1.5 million Syrian refugees,[3] of which 855,172 registered Syrian refugees by March 2021, in addition to 477,574 Palestinian refugees in 2020.[4]

 

Since the second half of 2019, an unprecedented and complex economic and financial crisis hit the country and was followed by COVID-19 and the explosion at the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020. The crisis has taken a severe and heavy toll on the fiscal and external balances and a very high social cost. The Lebanese Pound, pegged since 1993 at 1500 L.L for every USD, is witnessing a significant depreciation in its market value reaching as high as 15000 LBP/USD in the black market by March 2021.[5] While the Lebanese Pound is still officially fixed, the Lebanese government based the estimations of its latest Financial Recovery Plan, released on 30 April 2020, at a rate of 3500 LBP/USD, publicly expressing its intentions to devaluate the Pound and to move to a more flexible exchange rate by adopting a gradual depreciation of the currency at 5 percent per annum to reach 4,297 LBP/$ in 2024.[6]

 

The country is suffering from a significant and protracted economic depression with real GDP growth estimated to have decreased by 20.3 percent in 2020 and projected to decrease by 9.5 percent on 2021. The World Bank estimated that Lebanon’s GDP per capita was reduced by 40 percent between 2018 and 2020 and hence downgraded Lebanon from an upper-middle income to a lower-middle income economy.[7]

 

According to the Central Administration of Statistics, the Consumer Price Index increased by 147.6 percent in January 2021 compared to January 2020, registering its seventh consecutive triple-digit increase since July 2020.[8]

 

Lebanon is officially seeking IMF aid to restructure its public debt and contain its twin deficits (a budget and balance of payments deficits). Lebanon’s debt-to-GDP ratio was estimated at 175.6 percent in 2019 according to latest data published by the Ministry of Finance [6] and estimated at 186 percent in 2020 by the World Bank.[7] The Recovery Plan aims to rein in public debt, down to 99.2 percent in 2024, following the adoption of a series of reforms, among which is restructuring the public debt. Additionally, the government is planning to restructure the Central Bank and the banking sector to close the gap in their balance sheets.[6]

 

Current account deficit was estimated at 23.9 percent of GDP in 2019 at $11.72 bn and projected to drop to 13.7 percent and 9.4 percent in 2020 and 2021, respectively.[6]

 

To achieve fiscal consolidation, the government planned to take measures to reduce expenditures and enhance revenues, as expressed in its Plan. In addition to the reduction in debt service as a result of a foreseeable restructuring, reduction in expenditures includes limiting the budgetary transfers made to the Electricité du Liban (EDL) and lowering the wage bill by halting recruitment and revisiting employees’ benefits packages, in addition to lowering capital expenditures from 6 percent in 2019 to 2 percent of total expenditures in the 2020 budget. On the other hand, revenue-enhancing measures include improving collection of taxes and increasing VAT, which currently stands at 11 percent.[9] In 2019, the wage bill absorbed 39 percent of total expenditure, while transfers to EDL and interest payments amounted to 10 percent, and 32 percent of total expenditures, respectively.[10]

 

In addition to IMF aid and advisory assistance, Lebanon continues to strive to access the financial commitments made under CEDRE – the Conference for Economic Development and Reform through Enterprises – especially with regard to infrastructure investment. Government formation and fiscal reforms are needed to unlock CEDRE financing consisting of USD 10.2 billion in loans and USD 860 million in grants.[9]

 

The banking sector has been informally adopting strict measures and capital controls, distinguishing between pre‐October 2019 dollar deposits (“lollars”) that suffered from a haircut of around 70 percent and the new inflows of “fresh dollars.” The cease of lending has been an additional burden hardly affecting young entrepreneurs and SMEs.[7]

 

The burden of the economic and financial crisis fell hardest on the lives of Lebanon’s most vulnerable groups. Up-to-date data is not always available as Lebanon scored 51.9 in the 2019 Statistical Performance Indicators (SPI) (*) of the World Bank, ranking 134 out of 176 economies.[11] Latest World Bank estimates show that poverty is projected to increase to 45 percent and extreme poverty to 22 percent with around 1.7 million people falling under the poverty line[12], whereas the Government’s Recovery Plan estimates national poverty at 48 percent. In addition, phone surveys conducted in November-December by the World Food Program found that the unemployment rate among the respondents rose to around 40 percent in November-December 2020, up from 28 percent in February 2020 (pre-COVID). [7]

 

The health system is quite developed despite its flaws, however the 4th of August Beirut blast has has caused massive damages to 3 private and 1 public hospitals and to 23 Primary Health Care centres. [13] The Government has been trying to introduce reforms to achieve universal coverage.[14] Life expectancy is high at 78.9 years compared to the regional average of 72.1 years[15], while maternal mortality and infant mortality are low scoring 29 per 100,000 and 6.4 per 1,000 respectively.[2] However, positive health attainment is also the result of personal spending by the Lebanese, for when  general government expenditures on health was estimated at 4.18 percent of the GDP in 2018, out-of-pocket health expenditures amounted to 33.22% of the current health expenditures.[16]

 

COVID-19 response has been constrained by the country’s disintegrating fiscal position. A national solidarity fund is intended to distribute in-kind and cash contributions. The central bank envisioned a facility aimed at getting banks to grant zero interest loans to customers struggling to meet obligations on existing loans.[17] Lebanon registered 497,854 confirmed cases between January 3, 2020 and April 13, 2021 with 6,703 reported deaths. As of March 28, there were 183,826 administered vaccine doses.[18] Lebanon received 33,600 doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines on the 24th of March 2021 as part of COVAX Facility and is expected to receive the second batch in April 2021.[19] Lebanon received the 9th Pfizer vaccine packages in April 2021 raising the number to 343980 Pfizer vaccines received. [20] The ministry of health expects to cover 15 percent of the population with Pfizer, another 20 percent through COVAX. The government is seeking more quantities of Pfizer along with Sinopharm, Sputnik, Moderna, and other available vaccines.[21][22] The World Bank approved the reallocation of US$34 million from the already existing Lebanon Health Resilience Project to help the country’s efforts in ensuring the vaccine as health conditions are deteriorating amid an unprecedented economic crisis.[23]



This overview was last updated in April 2021. Priority is given to the latest available official data published by national statistical offices and/or public institutions.


Sources:

[1] United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 2019. World Population Prospects, Online Edition. Rev. 1. [ONLINE] Available at: https://population.un.org/wpp/ [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[2] The World Bank. 2021. World Development Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at: https://databank.worldbank.org/source/world-development-indicators  [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[3] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2021. Lebanon Operational Environment. [ONLINE] Available at: http://reporting.unhcr.org/node/2520 [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[4] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). 2021. UNHCR’s Refugee Population Statistics Database. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.unhcr.org/refugee-statistics/download/?url=sSu3Lr [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[5] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). March 2021. March Economic Watch
[6] Lebanon. Ministry of Finance.2020. Lebanese Government Financial Recovery Plan.  [ONLINE] Available at: http://finance.gov.lb/en-us/EventPdfs/English/The%20Lebanese%20Government's%20Financial%20Recovery%20Plan.pdf[Accessed 13 April 2021]

[7] World Bank. April 2021. Lebanon’s Economic Update. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/country/lebanon/publication/economic-update-april-2021 [Accessed 13 April 2021]
[8] Central Administration of Statistics (CAS), Lebanon. 2021. Consumer price index. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cas.gov.lb/index.php/latest-news-en/238-inflation-5 [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[9] Council for Development and Reconstruction, Lebanon. April 2018. Government of Lebanon: Vision for stabilization, growth and employment. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.cdr.gov.lb/study/cedre/CedreGoLVisionMarch15.pdf [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[10] Republic of Lebanon. Ministry of Finance, Institut des Finances Basil Fuleihan. 2019. Citizen Budget Lebanon 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: http://www.finance.gov.lb/en-us/Finance/BI/ABDP/Annual Budget Documents and Process/Citizen Budget 2019en.pdf [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[11] World Bank. 2021. Statistical Performance Indicators. [ONLINE] Available at:  https://www.worldbank.org/en/programs/statistical-performance-indicators [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[12] The Word Bank. January 2021. US$246 Million to Support Poor and Vulnerable Lebanese Households and Build-Up the Social Safety Net Delivery System. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/01/12/us246-million-to-support-poor-and-vulnerable-lebanese-households-and-build-up-the-social-safety-net-delivery-system  [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[13] UNDP. March 2021. Handling Asbestos after the Beirut Blast. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.lb.undp.org/content/lebanon/en/home/library/asbestos-health-and-safety-requirements.html [Accessed 13 April 2021]
[14] Ministry of Public Health, Lebanon. 2018. Emergency Primary Health Care Restoration Project towards Universal Health Coverage in Collaboration with World Bank. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/Pages/6/779/universal-health-coverage-project-lebanon [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[15] United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). 2020. Human Development Report: Lebanon Explanatory note. Available at: http://www.hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/LBN.pdf [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[16] World Health Organization (WHO). Global Health Expenditures Database. 2019. [ONLINE] Available at: https://apps.who.int/nha/database/Select/Indicators/en [Accessed 13 April 2021].
[17] International Monetary Fund (IMF). April 2021. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.imf.org/en/Topics/imf-and-covid19/Policy-Responses-to-COVID-19#L [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[18] World Health Organization. March 2021. WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. [ONLINE] Available at: https://covid19.who.int/region/emro/country/lb  [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[19] UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, ReliefWeb. March 2021. First batch of COVID-19 vaccines delivered through COVAX Facility arrives in Lebanon. [ONLINE] Available at: https://reliefweb.int/report/lebanon/first-batch-covid-19-vaccines-delivered-through-covax-facility-arrives-lebanon  [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[20] Ministry of Health. 2021. Arrival of 9th Shipment of the Pfizer Vaccine [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/DynamicPages/index/127#/en/Pages/127/49114/pfizer-vaccine [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[21] Ministry of Health. 2019. Hasan: Pfizer Vaccine will Arrive in Lebanon by mid-February. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/Drugs/index/0/42946/page:115/sort:Drug.brand_name/direction:asc [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[22] Ministry of Health. 2021. Launching of the Vaccination Campaign for the Sinopharm Vaccine. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.moph.gov.lb/en/DynamicPages/index/127#/en/Pages/127/49177/launching-of-the-vaccination-campaign-for-the-sinopharm-vaccine  [Accessed 13 April 2021].

[23] World Bank. 2021. World Bank Supports First COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout in Lebanon. [ONLINE] Available at: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2021/01/21/world-bank-supports-first-covid-19-vaccine-rollout-in-lebanon [Accessed 13 April 2021].

 


(*) The Statistical Performance Indicators (SPI) is a framework for measuring the performance of national statistical systems and tracking their progress. It focuses on five key pillars of a country’s statistical performance: (i) data use, (ii) data services, (iii) data products, (iv) data sources, and (v) data infrastructure.
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Data Highlights

  • 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.

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Publications