Lebanon government passes tighter draft budget for 2002
The Lebanese government, struggling against dire economic conditions, passed Thursday, September 13, for the first time in years a tighter draft budget of 9.425 trillion pounds ($6.28 billion) for 2002.
Finance Minister Fuad Siniora, after the weekly cabinet session, told reporters that the draft budget, with a 40-percent forecast deficit, will be sent "as soon as possible" to parliament for final endorsement.
Siniora said the forecast deficit stood at 3.775 trillion pounds ($2.51 billion), "or 25 percent lower than that of last year" which had reached 51 percent of a higher budget of about $6.6 billion.
"For the first time in (years)...the volume of the budget is less than that of the previous year," he said. "And this is an important step," said Siniora, who boasted that "this year, there is also a large amount of revenues so we can make a qualitative change both in the budget and the economy" while lowering debt-servicing costs.
Siniora said the 2002 "Budget of Confidence and Revival" was meant to "put the economy on the path of growth and correct general finances." "This will increase the confidence of the private sector... which is very important for growth and for creating jobs."
Information Minister Ghazi Aridi told reporters after the session that the budget, stipulating revenues of about 5.650 trillion pounds ($3.76 billion), provided for a 3,000 pounds (two dollars) increase per 20 liters on gas (petrol) prices. "But any increase in world gas prices will of course be counted within the added sum," he said.
International institutions, including the World Bank, have expressed backing for Lebanon's efforts towards a return to health by developing the private sector and privatization, which is expected to raise $2.7 billion.
The government is striving to reduce Lebanon's chronic budget deficit, which hit 22 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) last year and pay back some of its massive debt of 150 percent of GDP. Foreign debt accounts for $7.15 billion of the country's total public debt, which reached $25.2 billion at the end of March. ― (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)