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
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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.”


Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

Updated 55 min 14 sec ago

Iran commemorates war with parade of tanks, missiles

  • Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities

JEDDAH: As Saudi Arabia prepared to celebrate its National Day with entertainment events, firework displays and cultural events, Iran staged a military parade in Tehran on Sunday with tanks, missiles and armored vehicles.

President Hassan Rouhani and Iranian military leaders saluted as ranks of soldiers marched past them in tight unison, followed by an array of military hardware.

Among the weapons on display in the parade, held to mark the anniversary of the start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, was an upgraded warhead for the Khorramshahr ballistic missile, said to have a range of 2,000km, and the Kaman 12 drone with a range of 1,000km. Speedboats and warships were shown in video footage on state TV.

Saudi Arabia and the US have accused Iran of a Sept. 14 drone and missile attack on oil facilities in the east of the Kingdom. After the attack the Pentagon ordered US troops to reinforce Saudi air and missile defenses.

In a speech at Monday’s parade, Rouhani denounced the US presence. “Foreign forces can cause problems and insecurity for our people and for our region,” he said.

“If they’re sincere, then they should not make our region the site of an arms race.

“Their presence has always brought pain and misery ... the farther they keep themselves from our region and our nations, the more security there will be.”

The US aims to avoid war with Iran and the additional troops are for “deterrence and defense,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Sunday.

“If that deterrence should continue to fail, I am also confident that President Trump would continue to take the actions that are necessary,” he said.