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Country Reports

Lebanon Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

Lebanon has decided to default on its 9 March Eurobond repayment, likely triggering a wider default on sovereign liabilities. The government is likely to review the currency peg, at least raising it close to the black market rate, which is 60% lower than the official rate. Lebanon has the third-highest global government debt-to-GDP ratio at 170% or USD90 billion; interest payments consume 10% of GDP. The government declared a state of ‘health emergency’ on 15 March; extraordinary measures such as closing ports, banks and most businesses will further exasperate economic crisis. As of 18 March, the country has 133 confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Prime Minister Hassan Diab's cabinet mainly consists of representatives chosen by Hizbullah, and allies the Free Patriotic Movement and Amal, increasing the risk of factional fighting and selective US sanctions against Lebanese institutions and businesses. Protests over poor services, dollar shortages, withdrawal and transfer limits, and corruption began on 17 October. Any significant austerity measures are likely to escalate protests, roadblocks and vandalism against cash machines, state-owned enterprises, politicians’ residences, political party offices, media offices and banks. War risks between Israel and Lebanon are very high due to the extensive infrastructure damage that would result, and from the risk of unintended escalation. However, neither side seeks war and the likelihood of a war breaking out is low. War would most likely follow repeated US military action against Iran or from miscalculated retaliation by Hizbullah to Israeli military action. The terrorism threat has declined to elevated due to joint government security operations with Hizbullah, and Syrian government control of border areas. Deposit outflows have affected the ability of commercial banks to finance government debt and central bank reserves. The central bank has sizeable gross foreign-exchange reserves of USD38 billion (66% of GDP), but its net position is weaker after accounting for banking-sector liabilities.
Last update: March 19, 2020

Operational Outlook

Businesses, including foreign ones, are often dependent on the patronage of leading families and politicians. High government debt, 151% of GDP, and likely political opposition will stall the implementation of most Public-Private Partnerships projects. Lebanon is not a WTO member, mainly because the organisation bans monopolies and oligopolies, and these have direct ties to the government. Corruption is extensive, and nepotism usually determines the allocation of public contracts. Red tape is excessive. Lebanon's roads are inadequate, and water and sewerage systems are rudimentary. Electricity supply is unreliable and private generators are necessary.

Last update: February 7, 2020

Terrorism

Very high

Joint state-Hizbullah action has greatly reduced Sunni jihadists' capability to conduct terrorist attacks using IEDs and VBIEDs. Terrorist groups continue to have the intent to target security forces in north Lebanon, Hizbullah supporters' residential areas, commercial centres, and vulnerable communities such as Christian Mount Lebanon. Militants active in Palestinian refugee camps rarely, if ever, operate outside of the camps. Hizbullah is the most capable terrorist actor, but currently has no intent to conduct attacks. If severely challenged, Hizbullah would likely conduct covert assassinations of rivals or use IEDs against banks or infrastructure controlled by political opponents.

Last update: March 17, 2020

Crime

Serious incidents of violent crimes such as robbery and assault are rare, but petty theft is common notably in Beirut and Tripoli. Kidnapping for ransom is particularly a risk in the Bekaa. Very large numbers of refugees from Syria have had a destabilising effect, with most living in severe poverty. These have put additional pressures on the public services, including education, healthcare, electricity, water and policing, which were already severely overstretched. Vehicle crime is another growing problem. Foreign visitors should beware of local taxis as foreign visitors have specifically been targeted for robberies when riding in these vehicles. Areas of highest risk include Tripoli and the Bekaa, especially near the Syrian border.

Last update: February 18, 2020

War Risks

IHS Markit assesses that the likelihood of war breaking out between Israel and Hizbullah is 25%, as neither side is seeking war. War risks between Israel and Lebanon are very high, however, due to the extensive damage on Lebanese infrastructure that would result from any unintended escalation. War is most likely to follow repeated Israeli airstrikes against advanced weapons storage or manufacturing facilities in Lebanon or a regional US-Iran armed conflict. Separately, civil war is unlikely. There is a high risk of intra-factional fighting involving small arms, and explosives against party-affiliated assets following inflammatory statements by opposition politicians.

Last update: February 7, 2020

Social Stability

High

Lebanon experiences regularly peaceful ad-hoc protests and road closures. Protests involving hundreds of thousands of people began on 17 October across the country against new taxes, corruption, and poor services. Thousands are likely to continue demonstrating, with more frequent violence mainly targeting banks and state-owned enterprises. Security forces are increasingly employing batons, tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets to disperse crowds. Protests will likely continue to demand an independent cabinet, and eased restrictions on bank withdrawals. There is an elevated risk of fighting between rival party supporters, and short-lived riots and shootings against media and political party offices.

Last update: January 23, 2020

Health Risk

High

Vaccinations required to enter the country

No country requirement. 

Routine Vaccinations

Hepatitis A: A vaccine is available for anyone over one year of age. The vaccine may not be effective for certain people, e.g. those born before 1945 and who lived as a child in a developing country and/or have a past history of jaundice (icterus). These people can instead get a shot of immune globulin (IG) to boost their immunity against the disease.

Hepatitis B: A vaccine is available for children at least two months old.

Diphtheria-Tetanus-Polio: A booster shot should be administered if necessary (once every ten years).

Other Vaccinations

Typhoid Fever: If your travels take you to regions with poor sanitary conditions (for children two years old and up).

Rabies: For prolonged stays in an isolated region (for children from when they can walk).

For Children: All standard childhood immunizations should be up-to-date. In the case of a long stay, the BCG vaccine is recommended for children over one month and the MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine for children over nine months.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Natural Risks

Very high

The risk of earthquakes is present in Lebanon, especially in Beirut, as the country is located on a fault line. The last major earthquake in Lebanon occurred in 1956 in Zrariyeh (Sidon district), killing more than 140 people. More recently, an earthquake struck near Jbeil in May 2014, leading to some material damage. Most buildings in the country do not conform to earthquake-resistant standards and several experts have stated that an earthquake with a magnitude of six or above in Beirut would destroy 25 percent of the city. 

In winter, heavy snowfall can lead to roadblocks and traffic disruption in mountainous regions.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Transportation

Very high

Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport (BEY) is located south of the capital Beirut, and links Beirut to neighboring countries as well as Europe's biggest cities. It is recommended to avoid landing at night as the ID verification process can be long and the wait for a visa upon landing can take up to six hours. Any traveler presenting a passport with an Israeli stamp or an Israeli airplane ticket will not be authorized to enter Lebanese territory.

The UK government has announced that passengers flying non-stop to the United Kingdom from Lebanon will be banned from transporting any electronic device larger than a standard-sized smartphone (16 cm x 9.3 cm x 1.5 cm / 6.3 in x 3.5 in x 0.6 in) in carry-on luggage. This includes laptops, tablets, e-readers, cameras, DVD players, and video games, which will have to be stowed in checked luggage for the duration of the flight.

Road accidents occur on a regular basis throughout Lebanon, Beirut included, due to aggressive driving behavior and a poorly maintained road network. The capital is often congested during peak hours and significant transportation disruptions are reported regularly. According to health authorities, road accidents have more than doubled over the past few years and are the primary cause of death among young people aged 15 to 30. Caution should be exercised when driving in Lebanon as traffic regulations are not always respected, even though Lebanese authorities are stricter than in the past.

Major roads as well as the road leading to the airport can be closed by protesters at any time without notice. In order to get to the airport or from the airport to the downtown area, it is advised to take the road that links Sidon to Beirut; it is not recommended to take the road passing by Beirut's southern suburbs.

For security reasons, Lebanese authorities have set up multiple checkpoints throughout the country. It is important to carry identification at all times and to cooperate with the police or to let the driver take care of the situation if you are a passenger.

Public transportation includes buses and public taxis (called "service"). These taxis are shared and usually have a taxi sign. Private taxi companies are generally safer than public transportation. It is advised not to take shared "service" taxis or rides from individuals offering private transportation from the airport; cases of violence against riders have been reported in the past. If you wish to take a taxi, it is preferable to rely on private companies recognizable by the company's taxi sign.

Railways are nonexistent in Lebanon and there are no domestic flights.

Last update: April 5, 2019

Practical Information

Climate

Lebanon enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Summers are hot (30°C) and dry while winters are mild and rainy. Conditions in the mountainous regions are cooler, even cold, and snow is common in the winter.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +961
Police: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 110/220 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: April 5, 2019