By Massoud A. Derhally
New report says regional turmoil, domestic political tensions takes toll on economic optimism
Consumer confidence in Lebanon ebbed to an all-time low as the country faces the effects of regional turmoil and heighted domestic political tensions, according to Byblos Bank which tracks sentiment in the country.
The Byblos Bank/American University of Beirut Confidence Index fell 37 percent in 2012 from the previous year.
"The rising uncertainties, political volatility and worsening security conditions not only in the second half of 2012 but over the past two years have led consumers in general to hold on their liquid cash and to postpone long term financial commitments, which explains in part the steady decline in domestic demand for real estate over 2011 and 2012," the bank said in an e-mailed report.
About 94 percent of Lebanese consumers interviewed in the third quarter last year didn't expect to build or buy a home in the next six months whereas 2.8 percent of those surveyed said they had plans to buy a home in the near future, according to the survey.
Sentiment deteriorated in the last three months of 2012 with 95 percent of those polled saying they won't construct or buy a home soon while 2.3 percent said they were thinking about making a purchase within a six months.
Lebanon had a number of violent clashes in the northern port city of Tripoli last year as a result of the two year conflict in Syria between those who support and oppose the government in Damascus and rule of President Bashar Al Assad. In addition there were a number of assassination attempts and the killing of a key Lebanese security and intelligence figure.
"The level of consumer sentiment reached such low levels that consumers require a positive political shock of the magnitude of the Doha Accord and not just a change in government to restore their confidence to the levels of 2008, 2009, and 2010."
The Doha Accord was an agreement out together by Qatar in 2008 that helped end a 2 year political crisis in Lebanon that had left it without a president and two weeks of sectarian fighting.