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Lebanese cbank sees growth edging up in 2013

Beirut, April 23, 2013

Lebanon's economic growth should increase to more than 2 percent in 2013, central bank Governor Riad Salameh said on Tuesday, noting stimulus plans were helping to eke out expansion in the country bordering war-torn Syria.

Lebanon is in its third year of relatively sluggish growth.

"Real growth for this year is expected to be above 2 percent," Salameh told Reuters at an economic conference in Beirut. "If the political environment remains amenable, the season in which Lebanon achieves the most growth is between June and September. So it is possible that we could exceed this number."

The 2012 growth rate was estimated at 1.5 percent in an economy that is is partially dependent on summer tourism from Gulf Arab states. Tourism dropped last year due to travel warnings, but some Lebanese officials have said they expect an increase in Gulf visitors this summer.

Lebanon, a nation of about four million people, enjoyed GDP growth of around 7 to 8 percent annually from 2007 to 2010, but that fell off sharply in 2011 after the government collapsed due to domestic political jockeying. Tensions further increased when the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad in Syria began a few months later.

Sectarian tensions in Lebanon, which fought a ruinous civil war from 1975 to 1990, have been exacerbated by the conflict in Syria, where majority Sunni Muslims are fighting to overthrow Assad, who is from the Alawite minority, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

Salameh said his country's stimulus plan, which includes housing loans, loans to the productive sector, and loans for the energy sector, should allow for a slight increase in growth this year.

He said Lebanon's economic conditions were better than in countries hit by the wave of protests that spread across the Arab world and toppled governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

"Today, compared to what is happening in other non-oil producing Arab countries, Lebanon's growth situation is positive. With our stimulus plan for credit we have strengthened possibilities for growth so that we would not have to face any decline or stagnation," he told journalists. – Reuters

Tags: Central Bank | Syria | Lebanese | Beirut | Economic Growth |

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