Syria crisis weighs on Lebanon economy

BEIRUT: A series of recently issued economic indicators showed a persistent decline across Lebanon’s tourism, real estate, trade and banking sectors as fears of a spillover of the Syrian crisis continue to weigh on Lebanese consumer confidence. Activity in the construction sector fell by 13 percent, while the number of real estate transactions similarly declined by double digits.

Real estate transactions till October 2012 stood at 59,081 down 10.66 percent year over year from 66,134.

Construction permits issued in the first nine months of 2012 reached 10.7 million square meters dropping 13.4 percent from 12.4 million square meters in the first three quarters of 2011, figures compiled by the orders of engineers and architects in Beirut and north Lebanon showed.

Cement deliveries fell 5.8 percent compared to the same period last year.

The service sector didn’t perform any better with hotel occupancy rates showing a steep decline from 2011.

“Beirut, Lebanon, reported the largest decrease in all three key performance metrics [in the hotel industry in first 10 months of 2012 year over year],” said a report by STR Global, a consultancy firm specialized in hotel occupancy rates

“The market’s occupancy fell 37.7 percent to 38.5 percent, its ADR [average daily rate] was down 15.9 percent to $159.34, and its RevPAR [revenue per available room] decreased 47.6 percent to $61.36,” the report added.

Lebanon’s industrial exports fell 11.3 percent in the first nine months of 2012 compared to same period in 2011, while deficit in the balance of payments is expected to exceed $2 billion in 2012, Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh said recently.

Salameh had projected inflation to reach 6 percent this year. But the Consumer Price Index, issued by the Lebanese government, has already increased by more than 11 percent in the year ending November.

Investor concerns also resulted in thin trading at the Beirut bourse for the first 11 months of 2012.

Total trading volume reached 49.6 million shares in the first 11 months of 2012, declining 27 percent from the same period last year, while aggregate turnover amounted to $381.9 mln, down 21 percent from $481 mln in the first 11 months of 2011.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 03, 2012, on page 5.




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