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Lebanon weathers economic shocks but debts mount, IMF says

© AFP/File | The International Monetary Fund stated that Lebanon would need to reduce its debt, continue its political progress and make further reforms in order to face "challenging" economic conditions, including a significant influx of Syrian refugee workers

WASHINGTON (AFP) - 

Lebanon's economy has shown resilience despite the burden of absorbing refugees from Syria's grinding conflict, but Beirut should reign in its sovereign debt, the International Monetary Fund cautioned Wednesday.

"Lebanon's economy is known for its resilience and it has repeatedly managed to weather significant shocks," said Chris Jarvis, who led an IMF delegation to Beirut this week to review the nation's economy.

Syrian refugees now account for about a quarter of Lebanon's population, creating an "urgent need to place the economy on a sustainable path and halt the rise in public debt," Jarvis said in a statement.

He warned that "economic conditions remain challenging," and economic growth will be subdued this year, with a yawning budget deficit leaving the country vulnerable and driving debt to 148 percent of GDP in 2016.

The IMF noted that Lebanon "has made political progress in recent months," including legislation that paved the way for the first parliamentary elections in eight years. But the country can improve growth through additional reforms to help the business climate.

Libya and Syria share a 200-mile (330 kilometer) border and more than 1.2 million Syrians had fled their country's six-year conflict.

© 2017 AFP