BEIRUT: Lebanon will re-up its austerity budget in 2020 with the aim of reducing the deficit by another LBP 453 billion according to the head of Parliament's Finance and Budget Committee.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the measures would decrease the spending of all institutions except those "concerned with social or health care."
“All unexplained spending and compensations and aid for organizations that are not concerned with social and health care must be crossed out or have a big part of it eliminated," he said.
New taxes or cuts to public sector wages will not be introduced, he said. The committee has been holding around the clock meetings to complete the 2020 budget and refer it back to parliament before the constitutional deadline.
The draft budget also includes the series of measures approved by the Cabinet before caretaker Prime Minister Saad Hariri submitted his resignation.
A reduction in electricity subsidies, minister wage cuts and other reforms were agreed hours after nationwide protests gripped Lebanon.
On paper, the budget deficit was also reduced to 0.6 percent of GDP, down from 11.1 percent in 2018.
Meanwhile, caretaker Energy Minister Nada Boustani extended a tender to import 150,000 tons of gasoline by week to "allow for more competition."
Only two companies submitted offers for the tender, Boustrani said, despite being received by another 12.
On Saturday, owners of gas stations in Lebanon suspended a one-day strike that paralyzed the country and raised fears over a possible shortage of fuel.
Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicates of Gas Station Owners, announced suspending the strike "after holding contacts with the Energy Ministry,” said LBCI.
The tender, offered by the state, looks to import that amount of gasoline in an attempt to avert any fuel shortages and "ensure that prices do not rise for Lebanese consumers," Boustani said.
Lebanon has been rocked by nationwide protests for the better part of a month, kicked off initially by a proposed WhatsApp tax. Demonstrators have been decrying increased living costs and high unemployment, while a shortage in dollar liquidity has raised fears of a possible default.
Speaking on Monday, President Michel Aoun on Monday praised certain aspects of the movement, saying that protestors had “breached a lot of (sectarian) protectorates and eliminated a lot of red lines.”
“In the coming period, you will witness things that will satisfy you and all Lebanese,” Aoun told a delegation from the Beirut Bar Association led by its newly-elected chief Melhem Khalaf – a prominent civil society figure who managed to defeat the establishment's candidates last month.
“We are not only being impeded by the corrupts who are in power, or those of them who were in power, because this has become familiar, but we are also being impeded by the protection they are receiving from society,” the president added.
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