Wednesday, September 25, 2019

The Economic Research and Analysis Department of Byblos Bank Group provides a high-quality weekly analysis of what’s happening in the finance and business sectors in Lebanon. Its well-documented articles offer useful information, data, and analysis of what’s going on inside and outside of government. The charts and tables are clearly explained, as in its latest article on “Draft budget for 2020 projects deficit of 7.4% of GDP.” Unfortunately, the story the numbers tell is not a happy one, and the projections are incomplete at best.

For example, the article compares the 2019 budget and the 2020 projection using Ministry of Finance and Byblos Research sources. It lists 2020 revenues at $12.6 billion versus 2019’s $12.5 billion. This shows that all of the fuss over the 2019 budget will only in...

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The missile and drone strikes on Saudi oil fields push mounting Saudi-Iranian tensions; the outcome of the Israeli elections follows on Israeli reprisals against alleged Hamas provocations and Netanyahu’s promise to annex the Jordan Valley settlements; and Lebanon facing unprecedented financial dislocations are all contributing to growing fears that a regional explosion is coming. The prayers of your aunt Salwah in the village will unfortunately not make a difference. If a conflict erupts, Lebanon is going to suffer. The only question is what will be left? So, while Foreign Minister Bassil and President Aoun, his father-in-law, are in the US week for LDE and the opening of the UN General Assembly, the Lebanese are trying to act as if this too shall pass. And the rest of us are saying, “Ins...

Thursday, September 12, 2019

The recent firing/resignation of John Bolton as Trump’s National Security Advisor and the proclamation by the Administration that the basis for foreign assistance henceforth would, as previously threatened, be subject to political criteria such as “what have you done for me (the US) lately,” have serious implications for the US-Lebanon relationship. Understanding how these actions impact Lebanon is even more critical in light of the recent IDC convention and the LDE conference that share a concern for the future of Lebanon and its historic role in the region.

While these meetings and the administration’s actions are not directly tied, the atmospherics towards Lebanon are clearly shifting away from those who support Lebanon’s territorial integrity, independence, and stability towards those d...

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

While both sides seem to be relaxing their high alerts for an imminent spike in hostilities, both Lebanon and Israel are stepping back from their rhetorical and armed exchanges this last week and weekend. For Lebanon watchers, the most damaging fatality from the escalation is reinforcing the perception that Hezbollah acts for Lebanon rather than the LAF. World media focused on statements from Hezbollah’s leadership rather than the Lebanese government although, President Aoun’s “declaration of war” did strike some as a dangerous pose. It is Hezbollah’s Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah who has managed to dominate messaging from Lebanon, strengthening the perception that it acts as a state within a state and the government holds second tier status.

At a time when the renewal of UNIFIL’s mand...

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