The trash crisis and political squabbling caused a further decline in consumer confidence in the second half of 2015, according to the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index.
The index posted an average of 39.5 in the third quarter of 2015, and dropped to 36.9 in the fourth, the lowest level since 2014.
“This was due in part to the outbreak of the waste-management crisis in July and to the inability of the government to solve it throughout the second half of the year, as well as to the repeated failure of the Lebanese Parliament to elect a president and the resulting uncertain political outlook,” the survey said.
The index’s latest values are not surprising to most economists and experts, who warned that the failure to elect a president of the republic, the paralysis of government institutions and the presence of more than 1.1 million Syrian refugees have caused havoc in the Lebanon’s already sclerotic economy.
Central Bank Gov. Riad Salameh recently expressed fear that the country’s gross domestic product could be negative in 2016 if the current situation does not improve.
“The results of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 remained consistent with the ongoing trend of low household confidence since the first quarter of 2012,” the study said.
The study stressed that this drop in consumer confidence has been persistent for some years.
“The results of the third and fourth quarters of 2015 extended the low confidence level that has prevailed since the fourth quarter of 2010 and that deteriorated since the fourth quarter of 2011.
“Overall, the results of the Byblos Bank/AUB Consumer Confidence Index remained at very low levels despite the relative improvement from a record-low of 27.7 registered in the second quarter of 2012,” the study added.
The study noted that female consumers in Lebanon seemed less pessimistic about consumer spending than males.
“Female consumers had a relatively less pessimistic near-term outlook in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 than their male counterparts.
“The average monthly reading of the Expectations Index was 44.9 for females compared to 38.3 for males in the third quarter of 2015, and reached 40.5 for females relative to 39.9 for males in the fourth quarter of the year.
“Overall, female consumers were more optimistic than their male counterparts over the short term during the second half of 2015,” the study said.
The study also indicated that Lebanese with a monthly household income of more than $2,500 a month were more optimistic than those with lower incomes.
“Consumers with a monthly household income of $2,500 or higher were less pessimistic about future prospects during the second half of 2015 relative to other income brackets, with an average Expectations Index for this segment of 44.4.
“During the third quarter of 2015, consumers earning $2,500 or higher per month were less pessimistic than other income brackets, followed by consumers with a monthly income of $750 or less and households earning between $1,500 and $2,499 per month,” the study said.
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