Lebanon, at least for now:
But while number crunchers elsewhere toil to trim over-optimistic
estimates into punier real results, statisticians at the Banque du
Liban are revising theirs sharply upwards. Lebanon’s GDP grew during
2008, not at an annual rate of 7.5%, it seems, but at 9% or better.
Yet even that trend-bucking number looks modest compared to other
milestones scored by this small, almost comically turbulent country.
Last year the value of deposits in Lebanese commercial banks rose by
15% to an impressive $94 billion, equal to 327% of GDP. Industrial
exports surged 24%. Tax revenues, tourist arrivals, banking profits and
the number of construction permits all soared by a third or more. A
giant 46% leap in net capital inflows helped Lebanon post a record $3.5
billion surplus in its balance of payments, and boosted the Banque du
Liban’s own reserves to a cosy $22 billion, nearly double its holdings
a year ago.
Nor does this upswing show much sign of slowing. Sales of new cars are
up by 19%, and the number of tourists arriving in the country in the
first three months of this year increased by 50% compared with the same
period last year. Property prices are holding the past few years’ heady
gains, and worries that the global recession would force home thousands
of Lebanese expatriates, slashing the remittances that underpin the
economy, have so far proven unfounded.