Lebanon Table of Contents
In the pre-Civil War days, receipts from customs duties accounted for nearly half of total government income. In 1984 customs receipts fell to US$69.4 million, barely one-third their 1983 level. The Ministry of Finance stated that customs receipts should be ten times higher than they were in 1984 to meet its targets for this revenue source. Instead, they fell further--to US$ 24.3 million in 1985. In 1986 total government spending was estimated at US$413 million against income of barely US$23 million. Of this already paltry sum, customs receipts amounted to just US$9.7 million.
In the mid-1980s, the government still had assets to cover its financial obligations. A November 1985 report listed as the nation's principal assets its gold reserves (about US$10 billion in foreign exchange reserves) and holdings in its Intra Investment Company (see Banking and Finance , this ch.). In addition, the report said, there were more than US$440 million in public sector deposits with the Central Bank, about US$200 million in secured debts owed to the state, and about US$86 million in various Central Bank assets. Against this, however, domestic public debt totaled US$2.5 billion, while foreign debt totaled US$200 million.
Some of the government's assets were unusual. By virtue of its Intra Investment Company holdings, the government had an important stake in the Casino du Liban, a famed nightclub at Juniyah. The casino also epitomized the way in which government had become dependent on militia deals to secure financing. In 1986 the casino reached an agreement with the Lebanese Forces (LF) militia under which the LF would close all illegal gambling houses under its control in exchange for a monthly income of US$1.2 million. At that time the casino's earnings were about US$2 million a month, of which 40 percent was paid in royalties to the government.
Data as of December 1987