So many Syrians are fleeing the war in their country that it has put a severe strain on neighbouring Lebanon’s infrastructure – the power grid, hospitals, transportation and other services.
Rents in Lebanon have soared along with food prices.
But several economists point out there are benefits from the influx of refugees, saying their spending is helping – particularly in deprived rural areas.
Some Syrians are even taking the opportunity to start businesses.
Ahmad Naasrani has opened a restaurant and butchers in Tripoli, in the north of Lebanon, were thousands of his countrymen now live.
Naasrani’s businesses not only provide him with a source of income, it’s also a way to help other Syrian refugees who work at his restaurant.
He said he is being treated like any other businessman. He has had no trouble getting work permits and all his employees are Syrians.
However, the wave of refugees comes just as Lebanon’s economic slowdown has hit government finances.
It is suffering from years of domestic political turmoil and plummeting tourism revenues. Inflation is around 10 percent and the budget deficit is rising.
The Lebanese economy is under pressure from the crisis in Syria. More than half a million Syrians have fled to Lebanon in search of safety. Some Lebanese consider them a burden, while others see them as a powerful positive influence on the economy. To learn more, we spoke to Lebanese former finance minister Georges Corm.
Shaden Ellakkis, euronews: “What’s your economic analysis of the influx of Syrian refugees into Lebanon?”
Georges Corm: “There are two points of view in Lebanon. The first is economic, saying that the arrivals are a stimulus for various markets, especially housing, especially with well-off Syrians. On the other hand, some people are asking a lot of questions about how much influx Lebanon can bear. This point of view reflects a political and social vision about immigration. One of the reasons – with the rise in the total number of inhabitants – is the Lebanese fear that they will represent a shrinking proportion of the population.
euronews: “What effect has there been on the Lebanese economy from the increase in investments and Syrian manpower?”
Corm: “Syrian workers, especially in the construction sector, have brought their families to Lebanon, and have also registered them as refugees. This is why we see this rise in the number of refugees. But Syrian manpower is a key element in the economic system of Lebanon.”
euronews: “Has the refugee influx had a negative impact on the tourism sector?”
Corm: “On the contrary: for instance, in Beirut or some of the tourist regions there are furnished apartments for rent, and well-off Syrian refugees have replaced tourism tenants who before came from the Gulf countries.”
euronews: “Some people say that the Lebanese government isn’t capable of controlling Lebanon’s economy. What’s your view on this absence of control?”
Corm: “It’s a chronic failure and it’s not recent. The government has asked various Arab and international players to help it take care of the Syrian refugees, but it seems that the Lebanese government has not received what it asked for.”
euronews: “What’s the solution?”
Corm: “The solution is that things calm down in Syria, so the Syrian refugees can go back to their country.”