World Bank Cuts Growth Forecast for Lebanon Amid Refugee Crisis

The World Bank lowered its forecast for economic growth in Lebanon this year to 1.5 percent, citing political uncertainty and the spillover from neighboring Syria’s civil war.

The cost of the Syrian conflict to Lebanon is estimated at $2.6 billion, the bank said in the summary of its Lebanon Economic Monitor, a biannual publication that will be released in full on Oct. 31. Cumulative losses to the nation’s economic activity could reach $7.5 billion by end of next year. The bank estimated 2.3 percent expansion in its previous report.

The war in Syria has triggered a flood of hundreds of thousands of refugees into Lebanon, and caused sporadic clashes between Sunni Muslim opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his supporters in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli and other areas.

The conflict, which started in March 2011, “is having a large, negative and rapidly growing impact on Lebanon’s economy, its social fabric and its public services,” the World Bank said in its report.

“Public services are under pressure given the sudden and large increase in demand arising from the Syrian refugee influx,” according to the report. “Across all core public services, the surge in demand is currently being partly met through a decline in public service access and quality.”

Lebanon, a country of more than 4 million people, is hosting at least 1.2 million Syrians, more than half of them refugees. Increased spending to provide displaced Syrians with health and education services has strained Lebanon’s budget, Caretaker Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said in Washington this month.

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