Cabinet Hikes Imported Goods Tax, to Hold 'Final Reading Session' on Budget Wednesday
The Cabinet held a new session on the 2019 state budget on Tuesday but failed to finalize the draft although it has held around a dozen sessions since late April.
“A final reading of the state budget will be held tomorrow at noon at the Grand Serail,” State Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Mahmoud Qmati said after the session.
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil also confirmed that a "final reading" session will be held Wednesday after which he will hold a joint press conference with Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
He later tweeted that Tuesday's session was "an important juncture with an achievement of encouraging deficit numbers and a real reform course."
"It will have a positive impact economically and financially," he added, saying that "rumors" over the past few days were aimed at "distorting a plan whose importance will be proved by time," in reference to the 2019 state budget.
The Cabinet meanwhile approved a 2% tax on imported goods except for medicine and agricultural and industrial raw materials.
Industry Minister Wael Abu Faour hailed "a white day for the Lebanese industrial sector."
"This will protect the Lebanese sectors, contribute to lowering the trade deficit and revive a large number of industries," he said.
The Cabinet also hiked the fees on tinted windows for vehicles, Lebanon entry visas and the airport's dignitaries lounge.
Earlier in the day, Khalil had announced that he considers the budget to be “done” as Foreign Minister Jebran Bassil said “the budget will be done when it's done.”
Khalil and Industry Minister Wael Abu Faour had on Monday accused Bassil of delaying the discussions.
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.