Lebanon’s budget deficit in the first three months of this year fell to 37.03 percent of spending compared to 51.84 percent in the same period of 2000, the finance ministry said Wednesday.
In dollar terms, the deficit for the first three months of this year was $430 million, compared to $733 million in the same period of 2000, the ministry said, cited by the Daily Star newspaper.
The figures would appear to give a boost to the government of Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, which is trying to revive the economy without causing a further deterioration in the public finances.
Finance Minister Fouad Siniora is projecting a deficit of 50.8 percent in his 2001 draft budget, which has yet to be approved by Parliament, down from 56 percent last year.
But a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit expressed skepticism about the government’s budget targets and forecast that the budget deficit will increase to 58 percent of spending this year, said the paper.
Total revenues rose slightly to $732 million in the first three months of the year, from $681 million in the same period of last year, the ministry said. Total spending fell to $1.16 billion from $1.4 billion in the same reporting period.
The ministry said that revenues from direct and indirect taxes in the first three months of the year rose to $693 million from $627 million in the same period of last year.
Debt servicing, the largest single spending item in the budget, rose to $616 million from $560 million.
The deficit in March was 54.01 percent of spending (or $255 million), not far below the 56 percent (or $353 million) ratio in the same month of last year, according to the paper.
It is also unclear whether the ministry has paid all its outstanding bills this year for contractors, hospital owners, municipalities, and the social security.
The $24 billion public debt is expected to rise further this month when the government sells about $300 million of 15-year eurobonds, the paper added -- Albawaba.com