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Majority of Lebanese say economy is in very bad state

The Arab bank building is seen as cars drive down banks street in Beirut, Lebanon, Wednesday, May 4, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The majority of Lebanese people have a grim outlook on their national economy’s performance, a U.S. survey group said. The survey, conducted in March- April 2012 by the U.S.-based opinion polling think tank Pew Research Center, indicated that 53 percent of the Lebanese consider the current economic situation in Lebanon to be very bad and 35 percent think it is bad, compared to 12 percent who believe it is good.

This percentage has slightly increased from 2011 and 2010, when 50 and 52 percent respectively of Lebanese respondents believed that the economic situation was very bad, as reported by Lebanon This Week, the economic publication of the Byblos Bank Group.

Overall, 88 percent of Lebanese respondents said that the current economic situation in Lebanon is bad or very bad, compared to 85 percent in 2011 and 86 percent in 2010 who had the same opinion.

In parallel, 83 percent of Tunisians, 71 percent of Egyptians and 70 percent of Jordanians consider the current economic situation in their respective countries to be bad or very bad.

Furthermore, the survey pointed out that 29 percent of Lebanese respondents expect the economic situation in the country to remain the same in the next 12 months’ 23 percent of respondents project that it will somewhat worsen; 22 percent of participants think that it will worsen a lot; and 22 percent said it will improve.

As such, 45 percent of Lebanese respondents expect the economic situation in Lebanon to worsen or worsen a lot, compared to 34 percent of Jordanians, 20 percent of Egyptians, and 12 percent of Tunisias who think the same about their countries’ economy.

Expectations of worsening economic conditions in Lebanon started to deteriorate since the 2010 survey, when 19 percent of Lebanese respondents believed at the time that Lebanon’s economic performance would worsen a lot in the next 12 months. This percentage rose to 21 percent of respondents in 2011 and 22 percent of survey participants in 2012.

Expectations of a stagnating economy have also been on the rise since 2010, when 26 percent of Lebanese respondents believed at the time that economic conditions would remain the same over the coming 12 months.

The percentage of respondents with the same opinion was unchanged in 2011 but rose to 29 percent in 2012.

It said 53 percent of Lebanese prefer a good democracy if they have to choose between a strong economy and a good democracy, compared to 46 percent of Lebanese who prefer a strong economy over a good democracy.

Meanwhile, 48 percent of Egyptians prefer a good democracy over a strong economy, followed by 40 percent of Tunisians and 33 percent of Jordanians.

The survey pointed out that 87 percent of Lebanese respondents consider it very important to be able to criticize the government, in comparison to 68 percent of Turks and 40 percent of Jordanians who think the same.

Also, it noted that 84 percent of Lebanese respondents believe that democracy is the best form of government, up from 81 percent in 2011, and compared to 67 percent of Egyptians, 63 percent of Tunisians and 61 percent in Jordanians.

The survey was conducted between March 19 and April 10, 2012 as part of the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. It selected a sample of 1,000 Lebanese above 18 years old.

The results of the survey are not surprising to most economists, who agree that the economic slowdown, and rising cost of living and unemployment over the past two years have created wide discontent in Lebanon.

The International Monetary Fund and Central Bank governor Riad Salameh project a GDP growth of 3 percent at the end of 2012, but some bankers say that growth is unlikely to exceed 1 percent.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 18, 2012, on page 5.

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