Lebanon’s PM vows push to finish 2018 budget

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said: ‘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.’ (AP Photo)
Updated 26 February 2018
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Lebanon’s PM vows push to finish 2018 budget

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri vowed on Monday to hold intensive meetings to complete the 2018 budget in line with a March 5 deadline set by the parliament speaker.
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.


NZ’s foreign minister arrives in Turkey for Muslim summit

Updated 49 min 12 sec ago
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NZ’s foreign minister arrives in Turkey for Muslim summit

  • The meeting comes days after the deadly terrorist attack at two mosques in New Zealand
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will also speak at the summit

ISTANBUL: New Zealand’s deputy prime minister is attending an emergency session of an umbrella organization of Muslim nations in Turkey after a gunman killed 50 people in two mosques in the South Pacific nation.
Winston Peters was in Istanbul on Friday for the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation’s executive committee meeting.
Australian Brenton Harrison Tarrant was arrested and charged with murder. Tarrant livestreamed the attack and released a manifesto describing his white supremacist views and how he planned the shootings.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who will also speak at the summit, has sparked outrage abroad by screening at campaign rallies excerpts of the Tarrant’s video to denounce Islamophobia. New Zealand has been trying to prevent the use of the video and Peters is expected to take up the issue.