The Lebanese draft state budget for 2019 is the start of a “long road” and shows Lebanon is determined to tackle public sector waste, Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri said, after his unity cabinet wrapped up marathon talks on the plan.
The budget finalised by the government on Friday cuts the deficit to 7.5% of GDP from 11.5% in 2018. It is seen as a critical test of Lebanon’s will to launch reforms that have been put off for years by a state riddled with corruption and waste.
Lebanon’s bloated public sector is its biggest expense, followed by the cost of servicing a public debt equal to some 150% of GDP, one of the world’s heaviest debt burdens.
The government, which groups nearly all of Lebanon’s main political parties, met 19 times to agree on the budget. Hariri said the budget for 2020 would not take that much time “because now we know what we want to do”.
The cabinet is due to meet on Monday at the presidential palace to formally seal the process before the budget is referred to parliament.
Hariri said the budget was a message to the Lebanese, financial markets and friendly foreign states that Lebanon was determined to “address the weakness, imbalance and squander in the public sector”.