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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 3 - An Unbalanced Econoy: the Growth of Inequality

Lebanon in its Sub-Region: Beyond an Average Level of Development, Tremendous Inequalities

Bruno Dewailly

Texte intégral

1On the western edge of the Fertile Crescent, the land of Lebanon has for centuries been a crossroad and an interface between the West and the Near East and beyond. Open to many influences, the Lebanese society has developed demographic and economic specificities that have stimulated services and secured a major regional position for the country (finance, media, advertising, tourism) until the 1970s. However, its former attractive features have lastingly been jeopardized by its loss of competitiveness following the Civil War, the autonomous development of the Gulf actors, an increase in outbound mobilities, and the dematerialization of exchange flows. This invites the Lebanese society to question and redesign its future.

An early and uneven demographic transition

2Lebanon’s demographic profile is rather similar to the ones of its European neighbors (Cyprus, Greece). The Lebanese population entered its demographic transition earlier than those of the other Arab countries. In 2013, Lebanon’s fertility rate was only of 1.49 (3 in 1990 and 2.23 in 2000). Admittedly, every country located in North Africa and the Middle East has seen its fertility rate drop down for the past 50 years. However, this diminution has been the greatest in Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates (74% since 1960) while this rate has only decreased by 54% on average over the same period in the rest of the Arab world. Even if there are no regional data series on fertility, we know that these average figures hide deep disparities linked to socioeconomic status and location. Indeed, in 2009, the average household size was 5.3 in the peripheral and poorer cazas like Minieh-Danniyeh and the Akkar, to 3.3 in Beirut. The aging of the Lebanese population has been accelerating, reinforced by a longer life expectancy and sustained emigration among people below 30.

Figure III-2: Fertility rate in the Eastern Mediterranean andthe Middle East in 2013

Figure III-2: Fertility rate in the Eastern Mediterranean andthe Middle East in 2013

A service-based and rentier economy

3Like in the other Near-eastern countries, Lebanon’s economic activities are mainly service-related (trade, financial services). Depending on the classifications used, they account for two thirds or three quarters of the added value. The activities of the construction industry dominate the secondary sector, which has been weakened by a continuously unstable international situation. Contrary to the two other rentier states of the Middle East, Israel and Cyprus, off-shore fossil fuel resources have not yet been exploited. Declining since the 1960s, Lebanon’s primary production does not carry much weight but stands as a promising sector for the future. Currently, the country’s economic profile comes down to four features: a limited valorization of natural resources (climate, water), a latent regional instability, a dependency on external and internal rents (oil rents, remittances, rents related to land and real estate), and their resulting social consequences. These economic difficulties translate into a GDP per capita that was about 10,000 US$ in 2014 and conceals tremendous disparities in wealth distribution. These difficulties call into question the sustainability of Lebanon’s model for socioeconomic development.

Figure III-3: Total and composition of GDP in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014

Figure III-3: Total and composition of GDP in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014

Figure III-4: GDP per capita in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014

Figure III-4: GDP per capita in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014

A level of human development concealing wide internal disparities

4Ranked eleventh in its sub-region and first among the countries that do not produce fossil fuels, Lebanon has a relatively high Human Development Index score equal to 0.765 in 2014. It mostly rests upon a long life expectancy (79.4 years in 2015 according to the WHO) and high scores for the education-related sub-indicators (despite a criticized public school system). Nonetheless, the Lebanese society is marked by dramatic disparities in wealth and education, rather representative of the extremes observed in the region. Thus, in 2014, its score for the Inequality-adjusted HDI equaled 0.606 (-30% because of the disparities in income and -24% because of the ones in education).

Figure III-5: Human Development Index in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2013

Figure III-5: Human Development Index in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2013

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure III-2: Fertility rate in the Eastern Mediterranean andthe Middle East in 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13234/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 67k
Titre Figure III-3: Total and composition of GDP in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13234/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 92k
Titre Figure III-4: GDP per capita in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2014
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13234/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 77k
Titre Figure III-5: Human Development Index in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East in 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13234/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 71k

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