Lebanon News

Cabinet session on closure of accounts delays budget review

BEIRUT: Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee is expected wrap up its discussions of the draft 2019 state budget later this week following a Cabinet meeting Tuesday to address the state’s closure of accounts for the years 2004 through 2017. In a 22-item agenda, Cabinet will also discuss and approve the transfer of funds, among other articles.

The ministers’ meeting Tuesday had led to the postponement of the committee’s meeting on the draft budget to Wednesday, according to local media.

Committee head MP Ibrahim Kanaan has called multiple times on Cabinet to send the closure of accounts, which is a report of all the money coming into the Treasury and leaving it, to Parliament for endorsement. Parliament’s endorsement of the report must take place before the budget can be published, according to the Constitution.

The last time Parliament passed the closure of accounts was for the 2003 fiscal year.

The committee endorsed the budgets of the Finance and Foreign ministries and a part of the Telecommunications Ministry’s budget - the last remaining ministries to be discussed, Kanaan said following the committee’s morning session.

The lawmakers approved a Treasury advance of LL2.5 trillion (around $1.6 trillion) to Electricite du Liban Monday morning.

The Energy Ministry’s allocation was approved with the exception of spending relating to employing consultants and private entities.

Energy Minister Nada Boustani told LBCI in televised remarks that there would be more electricity rationing during the summer as the ministry initially requested an advance of LL3.279 trillion to EDL in accordance with fuel prices.

The draft budget allocated LL2.5 trillion to EDL, compared with LL2.1 trillion in 2018.

However, expenditures for January through November of 2018 totaled just over LL2.4 trillion.

Kanaan had said last week that the budget would be ready by early this week to be passed onto Parliament so that its general assembly could ratify it.

He had said that the committee, which has been meeting regularly to discuss and ratify the draft, was waiting for clarification on several articles that the MPs had postponed discussions on, and that he expected to have the answers Monday.

Although he said following the morning session that most of the suspended articles had been rephrased, no date was yet set to decide on ratifying them as some were still being negotiated with the relevant ministries, according to the state-run National News Agency.

Kanaan tweeted Monday night that another session, dedicated to Ogero, would be held along with the sessions to discuss the suspended items.

One of the suspended items proposes a 2 percent tax increase on most imported goods.

Lawmakers also need to make a decision on cuts that would affect military veterans’ pensions and end-of-service benefits, which have led to weeks of protests.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 02, 2019, on page 2.

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