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

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.


Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

Updated 39 min 1 sec ago

Libyan navy says more than 300 migrants rescued

  • 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea
  • It came days after Libyan navy patrols “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats

TRIPOLI: The Libyan navy said Sunday 335 migrants had been rescued and one body recovered in separate operations off the coast, as they tried to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.
Nine children were among 57 migrants in a wooden boat rescued Saturday about 40 nautical miles from the town of Zuwara, west of Tripoli, navy spokesman General Ayoub Kacem told AFP.
He said they were from Ethiopia and Egypt.
It came days after Libyan navy patrols on Tuesday “rescued 278 migrants on board four inflatable boats northwest and northeast of Tripoli,” Kacem added.
The operations took place off the coasts of the cities of Khoms, 120 kilometers (75 miles) east of Tripoli, and Sabratha, located 70 kilometers west of the capital.
According to the statement, 128 Sudanese were in the boats, in addition to migrants from Chad, Egypt, Niger, Benin and Eritrea, including 35 women and 11 children.
One body was also recovered by the coast guard.
Libya, which has been wracked by chaos since the 2011 uprising that killed dictator Muammar Qaddafi, has long been a major transit route for migrants, especially from sub-Saharan Africa.
In general, migrants rescued at sea are first met by humanitarian agencies that provide medical care and food.
They are then taken into the charge of the body working to combat immigration at the interior ministry of the UN-recognized Government of National Accord.
On August 9, the Libyan navy accused the authorities of failing to manage migrants rescued at sea, claiming that it could be forced to let people go free once brought back to land.
Despite the risks, migrants continue to attempt to reach Europe by sea, preferring to take their chances than stay in Libya, where they are subject to abuse, extortion and torture, according to humanitarian organizations.