The finance minister has said Lebanon will not be able to ask international donors for support at forthcoming conferences unless it first passes the 2018 budget to show backers that Beirut is serious about reforming the heavily indebted state.
“The country needs reforms, the budgets of ministries should be reduced and we have to send real positive signs to the states participating in the forthcoming international conferences,” Hariri said in a statement from his press office on Monday.
Lebanon hopes to win billions of dollars of international investment at a Paris conference due to take place on April 6. It is seeking funding for a 10-year $16 billion capital investment program aimed at lifting economic growth.
Lebanon’s public debt was estimated above 150 percent of GDP at the end of 2017, and is expected to rise rapidly with a budget deficit above 10 percent over the forecast horizon, the International Monetary Fund said this month.
The country has one of the world’s highest debt-to-GDP ratios in the world and its economic growth is very weak, battered by domestic tensions and conflict in neighboring Syria. Political deadlock had left it without a government budget from 2005 until it agreed one last year.
The IMF report said passing the 2018 budget and preparing for the Paris conference could provide opportunities to launch much-needed reforms.
Hariri said: “We will hold consecutive sessions to finish it before the date set by Speaker Nabih Berri on March 5, because everyone will be busy afterwards to prepare for the parliamentary elections.”
Parliamentary elections are due to take place on May 6.