Lebanon approves 2018 budget ahead of support summit

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Lebanon’s parliament has adopted a 2018 government budget projecting a slightly reduced deficit of $4.8 billion.

The package, only Lebanon’s second voted budget since 2005, was approved late on Thursday, days before a French-sponsored donor conference to support the small Middle Eastern country.

The $4.8 billion deficit is a notch lower than the $5 billion that Lebanon, the world’s third most-indebted country, approved last year when it adopted its first budget in 12 years.

The first draft for this year’s budget projected a $6.7 billion deficit, or three times the amount in 2011, the year neighboring Syria broke out into conflict, sending more than one million refugees into flight to Lebanon.

Parliament voted the budget early to set the conditions for the Cedre (or Cedar) Conference, also known as Paris IV, scheduled to take place in the French capital on April 6.

The donor meeting will be attended by senior officials from several Arab and European countries as well as from key global and regional financial institutions.

Lebanon hopes to raise “between 6 and 7 billion dollars in the shape of credit facilities and funds”, Nadim Munla, an adviser to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, told AFP.

Lebanon’s growth rate has plummeted from 9% in 2010 to an average of 1.1% over the past three years, and similar donor conferences were held in 2001, 2002 and 2007.

They did not yield all the pledged assistance, however, as Lebanon failed to comply with promised reforms.