Lebanon Businessnews News

Gridlock in Cabinet over wage scale
Azour: “It will be a heavy burden on the economy”
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The Council of Ministers was at a deadlock today, failing to agree on whether to include the wage scale in the 2015 draft budget.

“Some parties favor its inclusion in the budget. Others want the budget to be separate, calling for the wage scale to be debated in Parliament,” said Minister of Labor, Sajaan Azzi.

“The debate is not about including or excluding the wage scale from the 2015 budget. The impact on the budget would be the same, since we are talking about allocations that should usually be in the budget,” said Jihad Azour, former Minister of Finance.

Azour said that the issue is that it’s not the right time to approve the wage scale. “The budget draft law includes high expenditures at a time when the deficit is already so high,” he said. “This suggested budget is coming after four years of economic slowdown and in the absence of a president, and the heavy burden of the Syrian refugees,” he said.

Azour said that the wage scale should be part of a “new vision about the role of the State and reforms in the civil sector.” The wage scale should not be approved now, he said, especially since the average salary in the public sector is higher than that in the private sector. “The State should tell us instead, through the 2015 budget, how to reduce the deficit and bring it back to acceptable levels, how to benefit from lower oil prices, and how to address the Syrian refugee issue,” he said.

The expected deficit in the draft budget law of 2015 is $4.9 billion. The deficit accounted for five percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010, compared to an estimated ten percent in 2014, said Azour.

Public debt, according to this year’s budget is expected to reach more than $71 billion, while expenditures will reach $15.5 billion.

Increasing revenues to the 2015 budget will depend on several measures related to the tax system. “The Government has to increase efficiency in tax administration, introduce new tax measures, and reform the tax system,” said Azour.
Reported by Leila Rahbani
Date Posted: Apr 21, 2015
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