Lebanese parliament to tackle financial issues at first session in a year

Lawmakers are due to discuss development loans, debt issuance and banks at the two-day session

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Lebanon’s parliament convened on Thursday for its first legislative session in more than a year to pass financial laws the paralysed state urgently needs to stay afloat.

Lawmakers are due to discuss development loans, debt issuance and banks at the two-day session, which began shortly after 0900 GMT. Thorny political issues have been left off the agenda, however.

Lebanon’s main political blocks had previously been unable to agree on an agenda for the session, obstructing efforts to convene the chamber. Some parties were still threatening a boycott until late on Wednesday.

The political deadlock means Lebanon risks missing out on World Bank loans that parliament needs to approve by year-end. The session is the first since parliament extended its own term in November last year.

The country’s politicians, bitterly divided by their own rivalries and wider conflict in the region, have failed to agree on even basic decisions, including where to dump rubbish.

The unity government headed by Prime Minister Tammam Salam is barely functioning. It includes Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, and Saad al-Hariri’s Future Movement, backed by Tehran’s regional rival Saudi Arabia.

The deadlock has left Lebanon without a president for 17 months with parliament unable to agree on who should fill the post.

Parliament also needs to vote on banking legislation for trans-border cash movements, cooperation to fight tax evasion and amendments to the money laundering law.

A controversial electoral law has been left off the agenda.

Lebanon, one of the most indebted countries in the world, risks cancellation of badly needed World Bank loans and must vote on legislation to help protect its relationship with banks worldwide.

It is also struggling to cope with more than a million Syrian refugees who have fled the conflict at home.