Report: Govt. Travel Costs Questions Seriousness of Austerity Driveإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
While Lebanese officials race to launch positions calling for austerity and anti-corruption, the agenda of the cabinet session on Thursday reportedly includes 17 out of 54 items on travel requests for conferences, seminars or exhibitions, and travel requests for ministers and first-class staff or university professors, Asharq al-Awsat daily reported Thursday.
Travel expenses, accommodation and foreign conferences had reached LBP 26.4 billion in 2017, while the presidency sources told Asharq Al-Awsat that “the situation would not remain as it was in the past.”
They said that President Michel Aoun adheres to his instructions, agreed with the Premier, in terms of demanding ministers and their employees to reduce their travel requests, and recommended the assignment of Lebanese ambassadors abroad to attend conferences to reduce costs.
Informed sources confirm that inclusion of these items on the agenda does not mean approval, especially in light of the decision taken by the President and the Prime Minister to reduce spending.
“Even in the case of approval,” said the sources, “ministers are no longer given the freedom to choose the number of members of their delegation as it was in the past. They have to determine the number in advance,” they said.
Ministers of the Progressive Socialist Party, Wael Abu Faour and Akram Shehayyeb, have taken an advanced step in this context. They took a decision banning employees at their ministries and in all their departments from traveling at the expense of the Treasury.
According to reports, Lebanon’s 2017 budget has allocated LBP 15.5 billion for transport, fuel and conferences abroad, noting that, due to frequent travel and the lack of funds, additional expenditures were allocated and amounted to LBP 10.8 billion.
The three presidencies (President, Premier and Speaker) have acquired the amount of LBP 9.787 billion, which constitutes 37% of the total expenditure, according to the daily.