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.


Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

Updated 34 min 13 sec ago

Egypt army drill ‘sends a message to Erdogan’

  • Military exercise near Libyan border a ‘warning shot,’ experts say

CAIRO: A major Egyptian army exercise near the border with Libya is being viewed by military and strategic experts as a message of deterrence to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over his backing for the Government of National Accord led by Prime Minister Fayez Al-Sarraj and supported by militia groups.

The combat exercise, codenamed “Hasm 2020” (Firmness 2020), was carried out by Egypt’s Western Region units together with armed forces formations and special troops, including paratroops and SEAL teams.

The drills included strategic incursions by land forces and land-sea operations by troops in coastal areas of the Western Region near the border with Libya. Other exercises focused on the threat from mercenary or terror groups.

Air defense and artillery maneuvers were also carried out during the exercises, which lasted several days. 

African affairs and national security expert Gen. Mohammed Abdel-Wahed said the Hasm 2020 exercise “carries many internal and external messages of assurance to our brothers in Libya and deterrence to some regional parties.”

The drill “was a message of deterrence to anyone who thinks he can threaten Egyptian national security” and “a simulation of war,” he added.

According to an army statement, the drill’s main phase was attended by Egyptian Minister of Defense Mohamed Zaki, and included live artillery and weapons fire.

Strategic expert Gen. Samir Farag said: “What happened was not an ordinary drill because the forces attacked mercenaries. Our army always fights a regular army. What is different about this drill is training to combat mercenaries. One of the training tasks is to carry out attacks to eliminate mercenaries in cooperation with the air force.”

Farag said the drill “is a message that we will operate on the coasts if they are under threat.”

He said the Egyptian air force succeeded in providing air supplies, “meaning that we have forces capable of going anywhere.”

Farag said that the Western Region had been carefully selected as a location for the exercises.

“We closely monitor any drill carried out by any of our enemies,” he said, adding that Hasm 2020 had been studied and followed up by some countries in the region. 

Egyptian MP and journalist Mustafa Bakry said that “every Egyptian should be proud of their armed forces and their extensive preparation to counter any attack on Egypt or threaten its national security.”

Bakry said that Hasm 2020 sent “a clear message to anyone who attempts to threaten Egypt or its people.”

The Libyan cities of Sirte and Al-Jufra are a red line, he said, adding that “Egypt will never leave Libya and its brotherly people as an easy prey to the Turkish invader.”