Lebanese cabinet gives green light to austerity budget

28 May 19

Lebanon’s cabinet has approved an austerity budget in an attempt to balance its books, the country’s finance minister has announced.

In a news conference on Monday Ali Hassan Khalil said the government had given the go ahead for the budget which will seek to cut the country’s deficit from 11.5% of GDP in 2018 to 7.6% in 2019, according to local media.

The budget, which must still get through parliament, comes despite public service workers protesting against the austerity measures earlier this month.

“We can maintain this number and we can improve it,” Khalil said of the 7.6% target.

“We are serious in this, and it will be translated through an injection of new investment projects that will revive the economy,” he added.

The budget includes cuts to benefits and pensions for state workers and the military, Reuters has reported.

Income tax will be increased for higher earners, public sector hiring will be frozen and healthcare benefits for existing public sector workers will be cut.

Lebanon’s public debt currently stands 158% of GDP and is estimated to reach 171% by 2023, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Sami Nader, director of the Lebanon-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs, tolf Bloomberg: “It’s not a transformational budget, what is actually needed is another system of governance instead of the current one in which politicians split the perks of being in power.”

Last year the IMF called for a change in government in Lebanon to drive through structural and fiscal reforms to boost growth.

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