The Central Bank’s trading bracket for the US Dollar ended the week at [1,501-1,514] implying an end of week average LL/USD exchange rate of 1,507.50.
Lebanon’s balance of payments (BoP) recorded a cumulative surplus of $25.50 million in the first 8 months of 2000, compared to a deficit of $31.1 million in the same period last year. The BoP registered a surplus of $70 million in August compared to a $100.4 million surplus in July and a deficit of $34.7 million in August of last year. The August surplus was caused by an increase of $131 million in the Central Bank’s net foreign assets and a drop of $61 million in those of banks and financial institutions. The balance of payments registered a surplus of $267.7 million in 1999.
Figures released by the Finance Ministry show that Lebanon ’s net public debt totaled $21.716 billion at the end of August, constituting an increase of 10.14 percent in 2000 and a rise of 15.68 percent on a yearly basis. Net domestic debt reached $15.83 billion, increasing by 11.65 percent in 2000 and rising 13.24 percent year-on-year, while foreign debt rose 6.23 percent so far this year to $5.883 billion. Foreign currency borrowing accounts for 27.1 percent of total net public debt and reflects the ongoing restructuring of the debt as the Lebanese government is gradually shifting towards foreign financing in order to borrow at lower cost and over a longer period of time.
The Central Bank’s index of economic activity in Lebanon, an average of 12 weighted economic indicators, reached 200.8 in August compared to 195.5 in July and 181.8 in August 1999. The yearly average for the index was 185 in 1999 and ended the year at 196.6. Based on the index’s 1999 results, the Central Bank stated that the Lebanese economy grew by 1 percent last year. The results continue to reflect the prevailing economic slowdown in the country.
Imports reached $4.602 billion in the first 9 months of 2000, a 1.07 percent drop compared to the same period last year, while exports totaled $531 million, up 12.97 percent over the same period last year. The trade deficit amounted to $4.182 billion, down $111 million, or 2.65 percent, from the first 9 months of 1999. The export to import ratio was 11.54 percent, improving from the 10.11 percent registered during the corresponding period last year.
The decline in imports is attributed to higher customs duties, and reflects the prevailing tight liquidity and continuing weak consumer demand. Italy was Lebanon’s main source of imports followed by France, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. The United Arab Emirates was the main export destination with $59 million, or 11.12 percent or the total, and was followed by Saudi Arabia with 10.36 percent, Switzerland with 7.65 percent, the United States with 5.65 percent and France with 5.47 percent.
Customs revenues reached $953.3 million in the first 9 months of 2000, down 9.11 percent from the same period last year. Customs revenues stood at $106.2 million in September compared to $119.4 million in August and $107.5 million in September 1999. Income from customs and tariffs accounted for 44 percent and 47 percent of government revenues in 1999 and 1998, respectively.— ( Lebanon Invest )