Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

Saad Al-Hariri said the cabinet held 19 sessions to conduct discussions on the budget. (File/AFP)
Updated 18 June 2019
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Lebanon’s Hariri calls for cabinet solidarity in budget debate

  • The PM said cabinet ministers need to be united and responsible
  • Lebanon’s debt is almost 150% of its GDP

BEIRUT, June 18 : Lebanon Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri on Tuesday called for parliament to quickly approve the country’s 2019 budget and urged his coalition government to avoid internal disputes.
The cabinet this month agreed a budget plan that shrinks the projected fiscal deficit by 4 percentage points from last year to 7.6% by cutting spending and raising taxes and other fees.
“What I want during the debate is for us to be responsible and united, and not contradictory,” Hariri said in a statement, addressing cabinet ministers as to their comportment during the parliament debate.
Parliament’s finance committee is debating the draft budget and has suggested amendments, local newspapers reported. It will then put the budget to the full assembly to ratify it.
Parliament is mostly composed of parties that are also present in the coalition government and which supported the budget there.
Since the budget was agreed there have been fierce arguments between parties in the coalition over several subjects, though these have not targeted the budget.
Lebanon has one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP, and the International Monetary Fund has urged it to cut spending.
“We have held 19 cabinet meetings to agree on this draft budget and these sessions were not for fun, but for deep, detailed debate over every clause and every idea,” Hariri said.
“For this reason, I consider it the responsibility of each of us in government to have ministerial solidarity...to defend in parliament the decision that we have taken together,” he added.
After the 2019 budget is agreed, the cabinet must quickly start working on the 2020 budget and on approving the first phase of a program of investments toward which foreign donors have offered $11 billion in project financing. (Reporting by Angus McDowall, editing by Ed Osmond)


British mortgage approvals near 2-year high in June: UK Finance

Updated 36 min 10 sec ago
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British mortgage approvals near 2-year high in June: UK Finance

  • Consumer demand has generally been robust since Britain voted to leave the EU in June 2016
  • The number of mortgages approved for house purchase rose to 42,653 in June
LONDON: The number of mortgages approved for British house purchases edged up to one of its highest levels in the past two years last month, though credit card lending grew at a slower pace, data from industry body UK Finance showed on Wednesday.
Consumer demand has generally been robust since Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, but the housing market has slowed, especially in London and surrounding areas.
Bank of England Chief Economist Andy Haldane said on Tuesday that there were signs the slowdown in the housing market had bottomed out.
The number of mortgages approved for house purchase rose to 42,653 in June, on a seasonally-adjusted basis, up from 42,407 in May and close to April’s two-year high of 42,792.
Net credit card lending slowed to £119 million ($148 million) in June from £247 million in May, the lowest since a contraction of £54 million in December 2018.