: Lebanon's information portal International 144 33 Association of Banks amends reference rates on US dollar and Lebanese pound lending The Association of Banks in Lebanon (ABL) recommended to its member banks to increase the Beirut Reference Rate (BRR) in US dollars to 6.01% in August 2014 from 5.99% currently, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon This Week’ reported. Eight Lebanese banks among Top 1000 banks in the world In its 2014 survey of the Top 1000 commercial banks in the world, The Banker magazine included eight Lebanese banks on the list, unchanged from last year, none of which ranked among the top 25 banks in the Middle East, Byblos Bank Slow construction and public work activity in fourth quarter of 2013 The Central Bank's quarterly business survey indicated that construction activity deteriorated during the fourth quarter of 2013, as the balance of opinions stood at -20, compared to -6 during the preceding quarter and -19 during Beirut is the most expensive Arab city Mercer Consulting's annual survey on the cost of living in 211 cities around the world ranked Beirut as the 63rd most expensive city worldwide and the most expensive among 19 Arab cities surveyed in 2014, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon Kafalat loan guarantees up 5% to $57m in first half of 2014 Figures released by the Kafalat Corporation show that loans extended to small- and medium-size companies under the guarantee of Kafalat reached $56.5m in the first half of 2014, up 4.7% from $54m in the first half last year, Byblos Lebanon's net public debt at $54.6bn at end-May 2014 Lebanon's gross public debt reached $65.1bn at the end of May 2014, constituting a rise of 2.5% from the end of 2013 and an increase of 9.9% from end-May 2013, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon This Week’ reported. Domestic debt Lebanon faces political and fiscal risks Merrill Lynch considered that political risks and the implementation of the public sector's salary scale adjustment as the main risks that Lebanon is currently facing, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon This Week’ reported. Subsidized interest loans at $530m in 2013 in Lebanon Figures released by the Central Bank show that the amount of subsidized interest loans to productive sectors in Lebanon reached $529.7m in 2013, Byblos Bank ‘Lebanon This Week’ reported. The industrial sector accounted Commercial activity in Lebanon declines in fourth quarter of 2013 The Central Bank's quarterly business survey of opinions indicated that the volume of commercial sales decreased during the fourth quarter of 2013 and remained low relative to historical levels, with the balance of opinion standing Residential buildings in Lebanon represent 83% of new construction permits in 2013 Figures released by the Order of Engineers of Beirut show that the surface area of newly-issued construction permits reached 7.23 million square meters (sqm) in 2013, constituting a decrease of 14.7% from 848 million sqm in 2012, Byblos