The cabinet on Wednesday failed to reach an agreement over the controversial issue of extra-budgetary spending, but agreed on an exit for urgent spending.
Briefing reporters after the session, Information Minister Walid al-Daouq said the cabinet “approved contingency funds to cover urgent spending under extraordinary circumstances for each of: the army (L.L. 15 billion), the Internal Security Forces (L.L. 7.5 billion) and the education ministry’s official exams (L.L. 1.25 billion).”
The cabinet also approved treasury loans for the Camille Chamoun Sports City and some state-run hospitals and decided to boost funds for the welfare of disabled persons starting June.
Asked about the basis on which the loans were approved given that the L.L. 4,900 billion decree was not passed, Daouq said the cabinet resorted to “an article in the Constitution allowing expenditure under extraordinary and emergency circumstances.”
Told by a reporter that the method of spending had been used in the past and deemed illegal, Daouq said: “It is an article in the Lebanese Constitution and its number is 85 and it allows spending to cover urgent expenses under emergency circumstances.”
Daouq also noted that the conferees discussed the L.L. 4,900 billion decree amid a positive atmosphere, although no final agreement was reached.
Speaking at the start of the session about the latest unrest in Tripoli, President Michel Suleiman said: "Even if there was a flaw in the way Shadi al-Mawlawi was arrested, that does not justify his release."
Islamist Shadi al-Mawlawi was arrested by the General Security Department on Saturday after being lured to one of the offices of Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi’s welfare association in Tripoli.
The development sparked clashes between the rival neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, which left nine people dead and at least 90 wounded.
The session was preceded by a closed-door meeting between Suleiman and Prime Minister Najib Miqati.
Circles from the presidential palace told the daily An Nahar Wednesday that the clashes in Tripoli would be the main topic of discussion, as well as the government spending dispute.
The daily said that no new developments or contacts were made on Tuesday over the government’s extra-budgetary spending.
Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas told Voice of Lebanon radio: “We have to resolve the extra-budgetary spending crisis as the challenges ahead of us are very important.”
“I am optimistic that the cabinet will be able to overcome this obstacle,” he added.
Miqati had told reporters on Tuesday: “The $5.9 billion extra-budgetary spending bill has become a thing of the past.”
Cabinet members are at loggerheads over a $5.9 billion spending bill that would legalize the allocation of funds made by Miqati’s cabinet.
While the Free Patriotic Movement, AMAL, and Hizbullah have pressured President Michel Suleiman to sign the bill into law over parliament’s failure to adopt it, ministers loyal to Progressive Socialist Party leader MP Walid Jumblat have defended the head of state in his decision not to.
Suleiman claims that the bill includes violations that should be amended by taking into consideration the remarks made by the parliamentary finance and budget committee.
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