Levant region faces mounting crises

29 July 2020
Unresolved conflict and regional currency collapses loom larger in 2020 than the effects of Covid-19

It is testament to the severe underlying fragility of political and economic conditions in the Levant that the Covid-19 pandemic has been far from the most attention-grabbing story for the region.

Instead, the most glaring issue remains the lack of conflict resolution in Syria. This has prevented the Levant’s economy from recovering and blocked the return of millions of Syrian refugees from outside the country.

As the Baath Party regime of Bashar Assad has come closer to regaining control of the country, its willingness to compromise to end the violence has lessened. Yet for all the pageantry of peace in Damascus, the international financial support required to reconstruct the country’s devastated infrastructure will only come with a conclusive de-escalation of hostilities and assurances of amnesty for returning refugees.

Lebanon's economic challenges

Next is the fall from grace of Lebanon, where decades of misguided macroeconomic policy have finally evolved into a problem of such magnitude that the genuine leadership required from the country’s ensconced political elites in order to avert disaster appears beyond their powers.

The market value of the Lebanese pound has collapsed by 80 per cent since October as the cash reserves used to prop up an artificially high currency peg against the dollar, as well as the country’s notably false economy, have dried up. 

Decades of accumulated public debt have meanwhile given the country little recourse to international financing outside of aid and support from bodies such as the IMF. The brewing crisis has also compounded itself by discouraging foreign investment in the country.

Covid-19 in Jordan

Compared to its neighbours, Jordan represents a beacon of stability, although the global pandemic has badly struck sectors important to Jordan’s economy, including tourism, finance and manufacturing.

Prime Minister Omar Razzaz’s government has nevertheless been praised for its decisive response after the first cases of the novel coronavirus emerged, and the country continues to make progress towards resolving its fiscal imbalance, with the full support of the IMF.

There are also clear roadmaps for Jordan's power and water sectors, and its public-private partnership legislation is being geared up to stimulate the construction sector


This month's Levant Market Report includes:

JORDAN

> Economy: Jordan’s economy faces heavy exposure to Covid-19
> OutlookRisks high despite Covid-19 success
> Oil & gas: Amman takes steps to improve energy security
> PowerRenewables success brings challenges
Water: Jordan moves to ease water troubles
ConstructionJordan turns to PPP for construction finance
TransportJordan's transport plans may face Covid-19 setbacks

LEBANON

> Economy: Financial crisis courts economic disaster
> Power: Lebanon requires power sector overhaul
> OilLebanon's hope fades for economic boost from oil
> Investment: Investors in Lebanon face reality check
> ConstructionAnother bad year for Lebanon construction

SYRIA

> Economy: Syria’s tumbling economy presses case for talks
> Transport: Damascus renews transport focus

 

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