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Lebanon ranked third in 2023 for diaspora fund transfers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Egypt led with transfers totaling $24.2 billion, followed by Morocco at $12.1 billion. Nevertheless, Lebanon surpassed the West Bank ($4.9 billion) and the Gaza Strip ($3.8 billion).

As officially recorded, funds sent to Lebanon amounted to $6.4 billion in 2023, according to the World Bank. The figures of the previous years are $6.4 billion in 2022, $6.4 billion in 2021, $6.6 billion in 2020, $7.4 billion in 2019 and $7 billion in 2018, according to the same source.

Far Off the Mark

Amidst a multidimensional crisis since 2019, financial support from the Lebanese diaspora, a vital force in the Lebanese economy, has nearly stagnated over the past three years. The stagnation is quite surprising on many levels. However, according to experts, these figures do not fully depict the reality.

According to Mohamad Chamseddine, researcher at the regional research and consulting firm International Information, annual fund transfers to Lebanon from the diaspora are estimated to range between $16 billion and $18 billion. This financial support plays a crucial role in allowing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese families to maintain a decent standard of living amid the challenging socio-economic conditions in the country. Furthermore, diaspora members who were not previously sending funds to Lebanon have been helping since the crisis, fully aware of the importance of every $100 to Lebanese households.

Chamseddine stated that the figures provided by international organizations, including the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), account for capital transferred through official channels, such as banks and money transfer companies.

He believes that there are at least 800,000 Lebanese working abroad, especially in Africa and Gulf countries, who regularly provide financial support to their families, often asking friends or relatives visiting Lebanon to deliver the funds to their intended recipients.

Balance of Payments

Nevertheless, Marwan Barakat, director of the research department at Bank Audi, praised the strong ties between the local economy and the diaspora. This is reflected in incoming flows that help alleviate trade balance deficits and prevent detrimental disparity in the balance of payments.

In 2023, the balance of payments saw a surplus, driven by a rise in net tourist flows, especially during the second and third quarters.