Budget sent to Parliament with a $4.8 billion deficit. Process expedited to meet April conference deadline - Lebanon

Budget sent to Parliament
with a $4.8 billion deficit
Process expedited to meet

April conference deadline

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The Cabinet has approved the draft budget for 2018 and the President has signed the related decree to refer it to Parliament for deliberation and ratification. The President has also signed a decree calling on Parliament to hold extraordinary sessions to ratify the draft budget and other draft laws.

The budget, valued at LL23,854 billion ($15.8 billion), does not include any new taxes or any additional fees that could be a burden for any social class, said Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil. In addition to this amount, the Treasury transfers to Électricité du Liban (EDL) to help it cover its deficit will amount to LL2,100 billion ($1.4 billion), he said. Transfers to EDL, labeled as a Treasury advance, totaled $927 million in 2016 and reached $1.15 billion in the first eleven months of 2017.

The deficit of the 2018 budget is projected at LL7,267 billion ($4.82 billion).

Khalil said that the Cabinet has discussed all reforms proposed by Parliament and has adopted most of them. He said that the Cabinet is committed through a clause in the draft budget to make the public sector more agile and to resolve the issue of public institutions that do not have a role to play anymore.

The draft budget includes an article regarding the construction of buildings to house public sector departments. The article allows the use of ownership leases and tapping services provided by the private sector, according to Khalil. He said that constructing new buildings for Ministries and public departments is much less costly than the rent that the State is currently paying for such buildings.

The approval of the draft budget comes at a time when the government is seeking funding for an infrastructure investment program worth between $16 and $17 billion. The program will be presented at the Cèdre donor conference in Paris scheduled next month.

Gross public debt stood at $79.5 billion at the end of 2017, up 6.2 percent compared with a year earlier.
Reported by Shikrallah Nakhoul
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Date Posted: Mar 13, 2018