'Final' Budget Session Tuesday as Khalil, Abu Faour Slam Bassil over Delay
Information Minister Jamal al-Jarrah announced Monday that the Cabinet will hold its “final session” on the 2019 state budget on Tuesday, as Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil was accused of “delaying” discussions.
“I believe that tomorrow's session will be the final one and today the issue of ministers and MPs' salaries was discussed,” Jarrah said after Monday's session.
"The salaries (of public employees) have not been touched," he added, in response to a question.
“We will need more sessions and the atmosphere today was positive,” Bassil said as he left the session to meet with U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs David Satterfield.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil meanwhile criticized Bassil, saying his remarks about further delay in the budget discussions are “unjustified, unreasonable and will keep the tensions on the streets.”
“Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the delay is unjustified and that we should've finished today,” Khalil added.
Industry Minister Wael Abu Faour for his part said that the discussions “could have been finalized today had it not been for some parties' appointments.”
The cabinet held its session Monday as retired servicemen protesting feared salary cuts tried to storm the government's headquarters.
The retirees and other public employees have staged several sit-ins in recent days to warn against any wage cuts.
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, 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.