Lebanon’s cabinet postpones final budget meeting

After decades of civil war and repeated political crises made it one of the world’s most indebted countries, Lebanon is drafting its “most austere” budget to secure billions of dollars in international aid. (File/AFP)
Updated 15 May 2019
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Lebanon’s cabinet postpones final budget meeting

  • Lebanon is drafting its 'most austere' budget to secure billions of dollars in international aid
  • The small Mediterranean country has promised donors to slash public spending as part of reforms to unlock $11bn in aid pledged at a conference in Paris last year

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s cabinet delayed until Friday its last session on the 2019 draft budget, a minister said, pushing back a critical meeting to finalize plans for cutting the deficit.
Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world, and long-stalled reforms are seen as more pressing than ever after years of low economic growth.
President Michel Aoun, in a speech late on Tuesday, urged the Lebanese to end protests and make sacrifices to rescue the country from economic and financial crisis.
Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has said this may be the most austere budget in Lebanon’s history.
Ministers who convened on Wednesday afternoon had been due to meet again at night to agree the budget before sending it to parliament for approval.
“There will be no second session tonight,” Health Minister Jamil Jabak told reporters at the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in Beirut.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for speeding up efforts to complete the budget, lawmakers from his Amal Party cited him as saying after a meeting.
Fears that the budget will include wage or pension cuts have sparked protests by public sector workers and retired soldiers.


Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

Updated 25 min 12 sec ago
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Militant rocket fire kills 12 civilians in Syria: state media

  • Former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham being blamed for the attack

DAMASCUS: Rocket fire has killed 12 civilians in a regime-held village in northwestern Syria, state news agency SANA has said blaming former Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham for the attack.

SANA said 15 people were also wounded late Sunday in the attack on Al-Wadihi village south of Aleppo city and said HTS, which controls parts of Aleppo’s countryside as well as most of neighboring Idlib, was responsible.

It published graphic pictures purporting to show some of the victims in a hospital in the aftermath of the attack, including of bandaged men and children lying on stretchers, thick blankets covering their bodies.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the same death toll — saying five children were among those killed — and also blamed militants based in rural Aleppo for the attack.

But the Britain-based monitor did not specify whether HTS or other allied militant groups were responsible.

The attack came as Syrian government forces have been locked in clashes with HTS fighters in nearby Hama province.

More than 35 combatants, mostly regime forces, were killed on Saturday in battles in Hama’s countryside, according to the Observatory.

Parts of Aleppo, Hama and Idlib are supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented as militants refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, HTS extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian government and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-government protests.