Abu Faour Says Govt. Held 'Productive' Session as Bassil Says Thorny Issues Not Yet Tackled
The Cabinet held a "very productive" session on Friday and the state budget is expected to be finalized on Monday, Industry Minister Wael Abu Faour said.
Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil meanwhile said that the Cabinet has not yet reached "the thorny articles which will require a lot of time."
"The discussion was good and not only related to the state budget but also to reform, corruption and the economy and there are items in my paper that have not yet been discussed," Bassil added.
MTV reported that Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil was “infuriated at the end of the session, expressing his dismay over having to repeat the draft budget several times.”
Abu Faour meanwhile told MTV that Bassil “will waste the funds that Lebanon is awaiting through the papers he is submitting and the procrastination.”
MTV said Bassil suggested lowering the prices of Middle East Airlines tickets by 30% to “encourage tourists and boost tourism.”
He also suggested that revenues from some of the airport's activities go to the treasury rather than to MEA.
The Cabinet meanwhile decided to shut down licensed gambling centers in order to boost state-run Casino du Liban's revenues and to ask the interior and defense ministries to close all illegal border crossings, MTV added.
Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah said the Cabinet will convene anew on Sunday evening.
"The most important decisions that were taken today are related to curbing expenditure and tax and customs evasion," Jarrah added.
Before the session, Abu Faour said "no agreement has yet been reached on hiking fees on some imported items, because we're awaiting the opinion of the Customs Higher Council, seeing as it is up to it to identify the imported items that are competing against the local products."
Khalil meanwhile said that he would present "an explanation in numbers about the budget in its new version."
"The proposals made by Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil which are already in the state budget will stay and those not present are subject to discussion," Khalil added.
Interior Minister Raya al-Hassan meanwhile described as positive her meeting with Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab on the so-called Measure Number 3, which is related to beefed up compensations for servicemen operating in danger zones.
Prime Minister Saad Hariri later told ministers that the issue will be discussed by the Higher Defense Council.
Deputy PM Ghassan Hasbani asked before the session why the Cabinet has so far failed to discuss key issues such as seaside properties, the Beirut port and other topics.
"So far there is no answer," he lamented.
Lebanon has vowed to slash public spending to unlock $11 billion worth of aid pledged by international donors during an April 2018 conference in Paris.
Last month, Prime Minister Saad Hariri vowed to introduce "the most austere budget in Lebanon's history" to combat the country's bulging fiscal deficit, sparking fears among public sector employees that their salaries may be cut.
Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of GDP in 2018, according to credit ratings agency Moody's.