BEIRUT Nov 20 Lebanon's economic growth will
slow to between 1 and 1.5 percent this year because of the
Syrian civil war and domestic political instability, but will
pick up to at least 2 percent in 2013, the finance minister said
Mohammed Safadi told Reuters that any improvement in
domestic politics, which have been roiled by the Syrian conflict
and the assassination of a top Lebanese intelligence official
last month, could revive the economy.
"We have a lot of problems that we are facing and we have
obstacles. But at the same time I confirm that the financial
situation in Lebanon is very sound and confidence in Lebanon
remains," he said.
Lebanon saw rapid growth of around 8 percent for four years
until 2011. Economy minister Nicolas Nahhas has said gross
domestic product grew 5.2 percent in that year, but many
businessmen and analysts doubt that number and the International
Monetary Fund has put 2011 growth at 1.5 percent.
The IMF said in September that poor government economic
policies have contributed to a slowdown of investment in
Lebanon; businessmen complain that the government, constrained
by sectarian rivalries, has been slow to reform state finances
and improve infrastructure.
Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government has said
parliamentary elections scheduled for next year will go ahead
despite the political tensions, however, and Safadi said the
polls could prove an important boost for the economy.
"Our economy is very small. An issue moves it up and another
issue moves it down because it is small...But a change in the
government and (having) a government with a national political
agreement would shoot up the indicators overnight, and Arab
investment would return to the country."
The state budget deficit is expected to widen to $3.5
billion this year from $1.8 billion last year, while public debt
is projected to increase by more than $2 billion to $56 billion
in 2012, Safadi said.