Lebanese government departments must cut 2018 budgets by 20%, PM Hariri says

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the second “Kuwait Financial Forum” in Kuwait City on October 31,2010. (File Photo: AFP)
Updated 24 January 2018
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Lebanese government departments must cut 2018 budgets by 20%, PM Hariri says

BEIRUT: All Lebanese government institutions must cut their 2018 budgets by 20 percent as part of the country’s efforts to revamp its struggling economy, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said on Tuesday.
Costs must be reduced “in accordance with the policy of spending rationalization and controlling public finances,” a statement from Hariri’s office said.
Lebanon’s economy has been battered by six years of war in neighboring Syria and by simmering political divisions.
After years of paralysis in government decision-making, Lebanon last year passed its first government budget since 2005.
The government is now trying to finalize the 2018 budget, in which analysts and politicians have said they hope to see serious efforts made to get the state’s finances in order.
Growth slowed from an average of eight percent before the Syrian conflict began in 2011 and the country has one of the world’s highest ratios of debt to gross domestic product, around 140 percent. 2017 growth is estimated to be about 2.5 percent.
The order to slash budgets comes ahead of a major donor conference to be held in Paris in March, at which Lebanon is expected to seek support for its economy and army and to help it deal with the approximately one million Syrian refugees the country is hosting.
The country’s crumbling infrastructure has not been overhauled since the end of a 15-year civil war in 1990 and Lebanon has plans for a 10-year $16 billion capital investment program.
Lebanon recently engaged management consultant company McKinsey to help transform the stagnating economy.
Ministries must present the amended budgets to the finance ministry within two weeks from the decree’s publication.
Hariri is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week.


Israel reopens its only goods crossing with Gaza

Updated 44 min 41 sec ago
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Israel reopens its only goods crossing with Gaza

  • Dozens of trucks carrying various types of goods, including fuel, began passing into the blockaded Palestinian enclave
  • Both Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed the crossing had reopened

GAZA CITY, Palestinian Territories: Israel reopened its only goods crossing with the Gaza Strip on Wednesday in response to relative calm on the border after months of tensions prompted a blockade on most goods from July 9.

An AFP journalist at the Kerem Shalom crossing said dozens of trucks carrying various types of goods, including fuel, began passing into the blockaded Palestinian enclave run by Hamas.

Both Israeli and Palestinian officials confirmed the reopening of the crossing, a key lifeline for Gazans and their crippled economy.

Israel also returned the fishing zone it enforces off the Gaza Strip to nine nautical miles in the south of the enclave. The limit is six nautical miles in the north, which borders Israel.

Israeli authorities announced on July 9 that the goods crossing was being closed to most deliveries, partly in response to kites and balloons being flown across the border carrying firebombs to burn Israeli farmland.

Food and medicines have been allowed through, but fuel had been intermittently blocked, including since August 2. All other goods were turned away.

The fuel ban exacerbated an electricity crisis in the Gaza Strip, which already suffers from severe power shortages and relies on generators in many cases.

Gaza border protests broke out on March 30 and have led to months of tension that have also seen several military flare-ups.

At least 169 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza by Israeli fire since March 30, mostly during clashes and protests.

One Israeli soldier was shot dead by a Palestinian sniper in July.

Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel have fought three wars since 2008.