Lebanon budget stabilizes finances, falls short on reform

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The draft budget being finalized by Lebanon’s government stabilizes the financial situation in the heavily indebted state but falls short of the major structural reforms it needs, the deputy prime minister said on Thursday.

Ghassan Hasbani, in a telephone interview with Reuters, also said he had “deep concerns” about delays to a final agreement on the budget in cabinet, after the government missed a self-imposed deadline for completing its discussions on Wednesday.

“Catastrophe has been avoided through this stabilization budget but much more needs to be done on the structural reform side in order to build growth going forward to avoid any future problems,” Hasbani, a member of the Lebanese Forces party, said.

The national unity cabinet led by Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is on Friday due to hold what the information minister has said should be the last meeting on the budget.

Hasbani said additional ideas under discussion were valid but amounted to “small, incremental points”. “I am not saying they are not worth discussing but the return on time invested in the last week or so has not been high,” he said.

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