Jun 02 2010

Lebanon's Cabinet again fails to endorse 2010 budget

02 June 2010

BEIRUT: The Cabinet postponed the discussions on the 2010 draft budget until Monday after several ministers made their remarks on certain clauses of the proposal.

Sources said that the Cabinet focused on the new budget of the Energy Ministry , which intends to build more power plants to reduce the severe electricity rationing in the country.

They added that the budget would probably pass next week.

The sources said President Michel Sleiman and Premier Saad Hariri want to endorse the budget as soon as possible to allow the Finance Ministry to submit the 2011 draft budget in under three months.

Telecom Minister Charbel Nahas wants breakdown of the spending that occurred from 2005 till 2009 and asked Finance Minister Raya Haffar Hassan why her ministry had not disclosed details of these expenditures earlier.

The Finance Ministry was not able to send the budgets from 2005 to 2009 due to the political climate in the country.

The opposition says that the previous governments which were headed by former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora have spent close to $11 billion above the ceiling that was set in the 2005 budget.

Head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun told reporters that his ministers will not allow the budget to pass until the finance minister answers all questions on how the money was spent.

“I prefer my ministers to quit the government instead of endorsing the budget in a hasty way,” Aoun said.

The new budget does not call for higher taxes with the exception of raising the tax on interest rates on customer deposits from 5 percent to 7 percent.

Hassan did not call for the privatization of the telecoms sector in her new budget but emphasized the need to allow the private sector to participate in financing some of the mega infrastructure projects.

Hassn told the ministers that if the budget is not approved soon then they won’t be able to receive additional allocations to their ministries to carry out their planned programs. – The Daily Star

© Copyright The Daily Star 2010.

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