Hariri: Government Prioritizes Budget Endorsement
Written by Malek   

Prime Minister Saad Hariri gestures as he
walks into the parliament building. REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

By english.aawsat.com

Beirut-Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has said that endorsing the state budget tops the list of government’s goals, adding any new tax would take into consideration interests of both citizens and the economic sectors. Hariri said that approving the ranks and salaries scale should be linked to administrative reforms and ensuring financial resources to finance them. Speaking to a delegation from the economic bodies headed by former Minister Adnan Kassar, the Prime Minister said that a package of taxes and fees made headlines in the past few days, as it is expected to overwhelm citizens -mainly those with limited income-, and some sectors, including the banking sector.

The PM clarified that ongoing discussions on new taxes and fees in the cabinet, will secure the balance between interests of citizens and different economic sectors, and will ensure additional resources to finance the budget. Hariri also noted that the country is battling hard economy conditions, and the government aims to hold a practical discussion to define the taxes and fees that should be applied, with the least impact on the economic growth and on the low-income class.

He added that discussions held in the cabinet are open to reach a balance between the needs of the private sector, citizens and the state. On the other hand, there is a package of incentives to motivate the private sector, which will likely be included in the draft state budget. Hariri said that approving the ranks and salaries scale is being studied by the cabinet; in case it is approved, it should be linked to administrative reforms and suitable financial resources to finance them. Without reforms and commitment to implement them, the ranks and salaries scale cannot be approved, as it is not possible to increase wages without improving productivity in the public sector and activating public administration.

As for increasing the electricity tariff, Hariri said: “I personally believe that it is not permissible to increase the tariff before increasing and improving electricity hours.” The Prime Minister concluded by saying that the government works on developing a new plan to deal with the Syrian refugee issue; it intends to benefit from the international support to develop the infrastructure used by the displaced Syrians especially roads, schools, universities, hospitals, electricity and water sectors.

Former Minister Adnan Kassar said that the visit to Hariri comes as part of the continuous consultation in all national issues. He revealed that the meeting focused on the economic situation in light of the cabinet’s discussion of the 2017 draft budget and the government’s directives.

The delegation praised the dynamism and vitality of the work of the government headed by Hariri and its efforts to control economic, socio-economic matters and security matters. They considered that the cabinet has been eager to approve the first budget since 12 years.

Hariri showed understanding of the concerns of the economic bodies regarding new taxes to finance the budget deficit, which would lead to further strains on the national economy. This economy already suffers from sharp recession driven by crises that emerged with the beginning of the presidential vacuum in 2014 and that persist due to the absence of foreign investments.

The delegation told Hariri that the first step to finance the budget deficit would be to stop the rampant waste in state institutions, improve tax collection and end squandering in public institutions. All this would be essential to the reform that has become urgent in light of the growing corruption.