Lebanon’s budget deficit in the first 10 months of 2011 fell by LL858 billion ($572 million) compared to the same period of last year to reach LL1.471 trillion or 21.42 percent of total spending, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.
The primary surplus, excluding the cost of debt servicing, up to October of this year rose by LL580 billion to reach LL2.269 billion, or 20.83 percent of government revenues. The primary surplus in the same period of last year stood at LL1.689 trillion, or 15.52 percent of spending.
The ministry said that the total budget deficit in the first 10 months of this year stood at LL1.471 trillion (less than $1 billion), representing 13.5 percent of total spending achieved over this period. The budget deficit in the first 10 months of last year stood at LL2.330 trillion.
Total government revenues up to October of this year reached LL9.422 trillion, an increase of LL873 billion or 10.21 percent compared to the same period of last year.
The ministry stressed that it calculated the new revenues this year based on the estimated income generated by the Telecoms Ministry although the cash is still deposited in the Central Bank. However, former Finance Minister Raya al-Hasan, a March 14 member, argues that Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi has no right to include the revenues of the telecoms sector as long as the proceeds from this sector remain in the Central Bank.
Telecoms Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui, following in the footsteps of his predecessor Charbel Nahhas, refuses to channel the telecoms revenues to the treasury under the pretext that law stipulates that the revenues should be sent at the end of the year. Furthermore, Sehnaoui insists that a large chunk of the revenues should be allocated to the municipalities.
According to the ministry, revenues from direct and indirect taxes reached LL6.758 trillion in the first 10 months compared to LL7.013 trillion in the same period of last year, falling by 3.64 percent. But the ministry attributed the main reason behind the rise of government revenues in general to the proceeds from the Telecoms Ministry which stand at LL1.449 trillion.
On the expenditure side, the government spent LL10.893 trillion in the first 10 months of this year compared to LL10.879 trillion in the same period of last year, slightly increasing by 0.13 percent.
The ministry said allocations for the electricity sector rose by LL216 billion. Safadi earlier predicted that the deficit of Electricite du Liban would reach $2 billion at year-end.