New Draft-Law on 2006-2010 Extra-Budgetary Spending Angers March 14

Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi was on Monday tasked with preparing a draft-law on the extra-budgetary spending made by the governments of ex-PMs Fouad Saniora and Saad Hariri in 2006-2010, drawing the ire of the March 14 opposition which is demanding a comprehensive solution that would also include the adoption of a $5.9 billion 2011 spending bill.

After a meeting held at the parliament by Speaker Nabih Berri, PM Najib Miqati, and MPs Michel Aoun, Suleiman Franjieh, Mohammed Raad and Talal Arslan, Safadi was asked to prepare the draft-law for approval by the cabinet, which will later refer it to parliament.

But the March 14 forces, which on Monday boycotted a parliamentary session that was set to discuss among other things the $5.9 billion bill of Miqati’s government, reiterated that they would reject any solution that does not legalize all the spending made since 2006.

The major point of contention between the March 8 and 14 alliances is the $11 billion spent by the Saniora and Hariri governments between 2006 and 2009, which the Change and Reform bloc of Aoun claims was riddled with corruption.

But in a new development, As Safir daily on Tuesday quoted Safadi as saying that financial violations were committed in those years and the spending was in reality more than $16 billion.

This in addition to a $5 billion extra-budgetary spending made by the national unity cabinet of Hariri in 2010.

The finance minister told the newspaper that he would refer the draft-law to the general-secretariat of the government on Tuesday.

This would lead to a full and not a partial settlement of the spending between 2006 and 2010, he said, stressing “we don’t want to complicate the issue. On the contrary, we are seeking to find a way out” of the crisis.

But several March 14 lawmakers, criticized the process with al-Mustaqbal bloc MP Ghazi Youssef telling An Nahar newspaper that the opposition will continue to boycott the parliament until it agrees on a single proposal that would legalize all the spending.

Youssef told Voice of Lebanon (100.5) that the opposition doesn’t mind for the cabinet to propose a draft law on the spending on condition that it is linked to the $5.9 billion bill.

Al-Liwaa daily also quoted al-Mustaqbal lawmaker Jamal al-Jarrah as expressing the same point of view.

Youssef and al-Jarrah have proposed a draft-law to counter the $5.9 billion bill but Berri did not put it on the agenda of Monday’s session, which later collapsed due to lack of quorum.

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