It’s austerity or catastrophe, Saad Hariri tells Lebanon

Prime Minister Saad Hariri promised “the most austere budget in the history of Lebanon.” ()
Updated 18 April 2019

It’s austerity or catastrophe, Saad Hariri tells Lebanon

  • The 2019 draft budget includes “wide reductions” in spending

BEIRUT: Lebanese public sector workers took to the streets of Beirut in protest on Wednesday ahead of a budget expected to impose painful austerity measures.

The 2019 draft budget includes “wide reductions” in spending based on the need for “exceptional austerity measures,” Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said. 

Prime Minister Saad Hariri promised “the most austere budget in the history of Lebanon.” 

He said: “It’s my duty to be honest with people. We stand with limited-income people and the retired, but we want to maintain the lira peg and the salary scale for general services and national officers. To do so, tough austerity measures will be needed to the detriment of public expenditure.”

The budget is seen as a critical test of the government’s will to enact reforms that economists say are more pressing than ever for an economy that has suffered years of low growth. State finances are strained by a bloated public sector, high debt servicing costs and hefty subsidies spent on the power sector.

Hariri said: “If we continue like this we will reach a catastrophe.” Unlike other states that had suffered financial crises such as Greece, Lebanon would have no one to save it, he said.

Labor union chief Bechara Al-Asmar, who took part in a protest sit-in in Beirut on Wednesday, told Arab News: “We raise our voice because the government finds that the easiest things to do is to jeopardize the public sector.

“But there are many measures that can be adopted before cutting wages, including a correctional basket that does not affect Lebanese people. The government always prevails over the weak, but the public servants will no more be the weak link.”

Public sector union member Dib Hashem said: “We will not wait for them to cut our wages. We have waited 20 years for our salaries to improve and increase, we will not allow them to cut them again.”


Google renews Injaz ties with new $1 million grant for digital skills training program in Arabic

Updated 27 min 36 sec ago

Google renews Injaz ties with new $1 million grant for digital skills training program in Arabic

DUBAI: Google is awarding another $1 million grant to Injaz for the non-profit group’s effort to boost digital skills training program in Arabic, and reach a further 100,000 people in 2020.

Google launched in 2018 the Maharat min Google, an Arabic digital skills program, which has reached more than 500,000 young people, women and underprivileged students in the Middle East and North African region through a $1 million grant.

About 130,000 of those who participated were able to find jobs, grow their careers and their businesses, a statement said.

Google likewise made a series of announcements for its products, including updated features on Google Search, the launch of Google Assistant in 15 new countries and a new safety feature on Maps.

Google Assistant will now be available in Arabic and understand local dialects in 15 Arab countries: the United Arab Emirates, Yemen, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Iraq, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and Mauritania.

Google Map’s Stay Safe mode meanwhile is a feature that gives users an ‘off-route alert’ when a driver has deviated from the suggested route by more than 500 meters, with an option to share live trip update with friends and family.

In Egypt, the Motorcyle mode will motorcyclists navigate traffic and avoid congested routes.

“Every day, people in the Middle East and North Africa turn to Google for help, to get things done and to learn new things. Over the years, we’ve improved how our products work for in Arabic, whether that was on Search, Assistant, Maps or YouTube. We are committed to making our products more helpful to people in the Middle East and North Africa,” Lino Cattaruzzi, Managing Director for Google in the Middle East and North Africa, said in the statement.