Parliament Debates Lebanon's First State Budget in 12 Years
The parliament on Tuesday started debating the country's first state budget in 12 years, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri describing the development as a “major achievement that all Lebanese were waiting for.”
At the opening of the session, Speaker Nabih Berri lauded “the strenuous work of the Finance Committee under the chairmanship of MP Ibrahim Kanaan.”
“Today we are discussing a budget for funds that have already been spent. We will authorize for the government what it has already authorized for itself,” MP Antoine Zahra of the Lebanese Forces bloc said, noting that he endorses “the Finance Committee's recommendations on the state budget.”
“In the name of Christians, I announce that our project is the state and not our share in the state,” he added.
MP Ali Fayyad of Hizbullah's Loyalty to Resistance bloc meanwhile lamented that “revenues from customs fees deteriorated over the past five years, despite a rise in the import of commodities.”
He stressed the need to “boost tax collection and put an end to tax evasion,” decrying that “the state budget contains expenditure on institutions whose names and owners are unknown.”
“What is the value of the grants that have been given to the state? Have they been registered in the state budget? This issue is not clear,” Fayyad added.
MP Ahmed Fatfat of al-Mustaqbal bloc meanwhile commented on the latest death sentence that was issued by the Military Court against hardline Islamist cleric Ahmed al-Asir over the 2013 deadly Abra clashes.
“People are wondering: where is the killer of (Lebanese Army pilot) Samer Hanna, where is the murderer who killed Hashem al-Salman outside the Iranian embassy?” Fatfat said.
“There is an impression that there is discrimination among the Lebanese and that the Military Court is issuing sectarianly-motivated verdicts,” the MP lamented.
MP Najib Miqati of Tripoli meanwhile urged the parliament to “take courageous steps to compel the government to slash deficit.”
“The magnitude of spending on public sector wages has become scary and it is consuming one third of the state treasury,” he warned.
MP Khaled al-Daher of Akkar meanwhile pointed out that “had corruption and the waste of public money been curbed, this budget would have been able to be LBP 5,000 billion lower.”
He added: “How can Lebanon regain confidence domestically and abroad amidst paramilitary parades in the heart of the capital and armed militias carrying the name of the resistance across Lebanon?”
Daher was referring to a recent paramilitary parade that was organized by the Syrian Social National Party on Beirut's Hamra Street.