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Lebanon’s economic growth slows to 1.5 pct in 2011

Lebanon's economic growth slowed sharply to around 1.5 percent in 2011, the country's central bank vice governor said on Friday, which would be the slowest growth since 2006 as the economy was hit by regional unrest and political tensions.

 

Saad Andary said he was upbeat about prospects for this year, and greater political stability would help, but did not elaborate.

 

 

"Let's say we are optimistic ... Finally we have a government," Andary told reporters on the sidelines of a Financial Stability Board meeting of regional central bankers in Abu Dhabi.

 

The preliminary estimate for 2011, which matches a forecast by the International Monetary Fund, is slightly down from the central bank's 2 percent growth prediction in November.

"In 2009, it was about 9 percent, followed by 7 percent, now it is probably around 1.5 percent of real GDP," Andary said.

 

In November, the central bank's governor blamed slower growth on widespread fears that unrest in neighbouring Syria would affect Lebanon's economy.

 

Internal political tensions that brought down the government of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri in January helped bring growth crashing to a halt for the first six months of the year, he has also said.  Economic activity in Lebanon is showing signs of a pick-up and growth could reach 3 to 4 percent in 2012, the IMF said in November, but warned risks to the outlook were "high and to the downside" due to global economic uncertainty and regional unrest.  Andary also said the country's foreign exchange reserves were sufficient and that the central bank currently held $15 billion in gold.

 

"I think we have sufficient currency reserves," he said.

 

Lebanon holds foreign currency reserves of around $33billion besides its gold stock, latest central bank for October data showed. Reuters

 

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