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June 07, 2021 | 19 Pages | English | Daniel Garrote Sánchez
From Liability to Asset: How Syrian Refugees Can Benefit the Lebanese Economy

It is often remarked, both in the media and public discourse, that the presence of refugees is a burden on their host country’s economy. However, studies have shown that refugees in fact bring with them a range of economic benefits: They increase the pool of skills available, channel aid funds to the local economy, and increase local consumption. While there are some estimates of the economic impact refugees have in neighboring countries, a rigorous evaluation is missing for their economic impact on Lebanon. Although Lebanon’s economy has slowed down significantly since 2011, this raw, net overview cannot be used to assess the impact of refugees in the economy, which has affected different communities in varying ways. Overall, a UNDP and UNHCR 2015 report finds that every $1 spent in humanitarian assistance had a positive multiplier effect of $1.6 in the local economy. In order to study the economic gains and losses in different segments of the Lebanese population, we conducted an extensive survey in three mid-sized cities in Lebanon: Saida, Zahle, and Halba. The survey provides suggestive evidence ruling out major negative consequence to the Lebanese economy due to the arrival of refugees, but it shows that the refugee inflow might have exacerbated inequality in the country with higher income groups benefiting from their arrival while some of the poorer citizens bore a larger burden. These results make a strong case for public interventions targeting support to those more affected by the refugee inflows, in order to mitigate its negative impact. There is also a need to think about redistributive policies among the different groups, so that income inequality does not further increase as a consequence of the refugee crisis.

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