|15 May, 2019

Lebanon's cabinet postpones final budget meeting

Ministers are seeking to finalise a budget that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says may be the most austere in Lebanon's history

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri meet ahead of a new government announcement at presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 31, 2019.

Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, Lebanon's President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri meet ahead of a new government announcement at presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon January 31, 2019.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT- Lebanon's cabinet delayed until Friday its last session on the 2019 draft budget, a minister said, pushing back a critical meeting to finalise plans for cutting the deficit.

Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world, and long-stalled reforms are seen as more pressing than ever after years of low economic growth.

President Michel Aoun, in a speech late on Tuesday, urged the Lebanese to end protests and make sacrifices to rescue the country from economic and financial crisis. 

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said this may be the most austere budget in Lebanon's history.

Ministers who convened on Wednesday afternoon had been due to meet again at night to agree the budget before sending it to parliament for approval. 

"There will be no second session tonight," Health Minister Jamil Jabak told reporters at the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in Beirut.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for speeding up efforts to complete the budget, lawmakers from his Amal Party cited him as saying after a meeting.

Fears that the budget will include wage or pension cuts have sparked protests by public sector workers and retired soldiers.

(Reporting by Ellen Francis Editing by Tom Perry/Mark Heinrich) ((Ellen.Francis@thomsonreuters.com;))

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