Central Bank governor Riad Salameh speaks in Beirut, Friday, July 31, 2015. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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IMF criticism of Lebanon's public finances is valid, but the country's draft 2018 budget sends a good signal as it seeks to cut one of the world's highest debt-to-GDP ratios from above 150 percent, the head of its central bank said.To help stimulate its battered economy, Lebanon is seeking up to $16 billion for infrastructure investment from investors and donors who hope to ward off more Middle East instability, in a country that hosts more than 1 million Syrian refugees.The central bank is due to publish its official 2018 growth outlook in July, and Salameh said a rate of between 2.5 and 3 percent was a "conservative" target.The International Monetary Fund, which expects 2017-2018 growth of around 1-1.5 percent, said last month that Lebanon's debt trajectory was unsustainable and fiscal and structural reforms were urgently needed.With growth low, Lebanon relies on deposit inflows to local banks from its large diaspora to fund the government and maintain central bank defenses.
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