Thursday, July 5, 2007

Making sense of the Daily Star...sigh

Just for fun and partly triggered by Harald's blog who did a review of English newspapers in the Arab world, here's a step-by-step walk-through of an article in the Daily Star today, with my comments in red:

BEIRUT: The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) said Tuesday that the public debt in Lebanon reached $41.3 billion in the first five months of 2007, warning that most economic indicators were on the negative side in the month of May. "Most economic indicators fell to alarming levels in May of 2007 due to the current political crisis and the unfolding security development," ABL said in report issued by the association.

But ABL noted that unlike the rest of the sectors, banks in general saw a growth in customer deposits and loans to clients.

What does this sentence mean? How can you compare deposits and loans with other sectors that don't have these type of products?

It added that the balance of payments recorded a surplus of $261 million in May alone.

Imports of goods in May reached $984 million compared to $830 million in April and $940 million in March of 2007.

Exports also fell to $214 million in May 2007 compared to $219 million April and $206 million in $206 million in March of this year. Total government spending reached over LL1 trillion in May compared to LL897 billion in revenues, bringing the budget deficit to over LL100 billion.

"Exports also fell". How come, 'also', imports increased, right? Shouldn't it read "Exports, however, fell to ..." Anyway, the numbers don't add up, at least not if they're meant to support the $261 million surplus.

And what's up with switching between $ and LL. Up until now, all numbers were in USD, now the writer introduces figures in Lebanese pounds. Is it really so much effort to convert those numbers into USD? It sure would help the reader. LL 100 billion is roughly $66 million, which by the way, is NOT the budget deficit, but the increase of the budget deficit throughout May 2007. Clarifying this would also have helped the reader.

The association noticed that government revenues in the first five months of this year were higher than those of 2006.

It added that revenues rose to LL3.019 trillion in the first five months of 2007 compared from LL2.774 trillion in the same period of 2006.

"Revenues from the value added tax was one the main reason behind the jump in total government revenues in the first five months of the year," ABL said.

But the association said that increased spending in the first five months have caused the deficit to increase.

Total government spending in the first five moths of 2007 jumped to LL4.121 trillion from LL3.356 trillion in the same period of 2006.

"Moths", they don't use a spelling checker at the newspaper?

This caused the budget deficit to reach 22.8 percent of spending in the reporting period.

uhm, let's do the math. The budget deficit is 4.121 minus 3.019 = 1.102. As a percentage of the spending (4.121), this would be 26.7%

ABL said the public debt in the month of May alone reached $41.3 billion compared to $41.2 billion in April and $40.4 billion March 2007.

"This means that the public debt is rising by more than $100 million a month," ABL said.

However, the banking sector had a totally different picture.

Great, a different view, let's have it

There is growing concern that the public debt may no longer be sustainable in the near future if the government failed to implement the reforms that would rid the country from its chronic debt crisis. is this a "totally different picture"? Public debt is rising with more than $100 million a month and the banking sector concludes this could jeopardize repayment of this debt. Seems like a logical conclusion to me, fully in line with the numbers.

ABL estimated total assets up to May at more than $77 billion.

A strange final sentence of an already weird article. What does the writer mean by 'total assets' and how can the reader assign any significane to the number of $77 billion. Is that a lot? Is it actually not so much? Has it increased/decreased, etc..


JoseyWales said...

I am impressed you made it through the whole article. I couldn't.

And that article is way, way, way better than the crap they write in their editorials which invariably boil down to:

If only our politicians would become nice and Bush would listen to the Daily Star, everything would be solved.

Anonymous said...

ja, die is goed!

Harald Doornbos said...

Hey Riemer, nice story! Totally agree.

And what to think of all these AP or AFP wire stories in the Daily Star ON LEBANESE TOPICS! Why print an AP piece about Byblus or destruction in the south or poverty in the Beka'a, when its all just an hour drive away. You know what - bad journalism isn't part of some conspiracy but mostly the result of lazy journalists...

Man, I flew a couple of days ago from Beirut to Islamabad to cover the story of the Red Mosque Siege here!

Salaam from Pakistan.

Walid said...

hehe, great article and unfortunately all true. I heard the Daily Star is written all by interns these days?? No wonder the quality is so low.

If you read French, you should try the Orient newspaper, which is not too bad.