BEIRUT - The 2018 draft budget is expected to a get the nod of approval from Parliament before the CEDRE conference in April. Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee head MP Ibrahim Kanaan said Friday that the draft budget’s deficit had been reduced substantially from that of 2017, but that the shortfall nonetheless needed to be addressed.
Kanaan said the deficit had been slashed to the tune of LL 200 billion ($133 million). Not included in this year’s budget, however, is the deficit caused by the country’s troubled electricity sector, although Kanaan said this “does not exceed LL7.2 trillion [$4.78 billion].”
The government is making efforts to finalize and pass the budget ahead of the CEDRE conference – an international meeting in support of Lebanon’s economy and infrastructure – scheduled to be held in Paris on April 6. Lebanon is seeking to secure $16 billion worth of investment at the conference, to fund over 200 projects.
The draft 2018 budget was endorsed by Cabinet this week, before being received by Parliament, which referred it to the Finance and Budget Committee.
Most government ministries have reportedly agreed to slash their budgets by 20 percent this year without affecting public employees’ salaries, pensions or medical insurance in an effort to curb spending.
Lebanon’s expenditure as outlined in the budget, Kanaan said, will amount to $15.92 billion (LL24 trillion), with revenues of just $10.6 billion (LL16 trillion).
Kanaan said the deficit needed to be addressed and called for a one-year hiring freeze across state institutions while a comprehensive survey is carried out, according to local media reports.
Lebanon has been urged by France and other countries to implement even modest reforms in the new budget in order to encourage the donor countries and international organizations to provide Lebanon with soft loans.
But most economists stress that the government should carry out drastic reforms, most notably in the electricity sector, to cut the deficit further.
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