BEIRUT: The International Monetary Fund called on Lebanon to implement deeper reforms as Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi met U.S. officials in Washington Wednesday.
“We agreed that Lebanon can no longer continue to overlook the bold financial, fiscal administrative reforms,” the finance minister said following a meeting with IMF head Christine Lagarde.
“Political forces should assume responsibility in improving the financial situation away from political divisions,” he added.
Safadi said Lagarde suggested that the 2013 budget should include the investments necessary to bolster the economy, but at the same time, should also cut squandering and unnecessary expenses.
“The IMF is satisfied with Lebanon’s [economic] performance in general, but there were a few reservations,” Safadi was quoted as saying by the National News Agency.
He added that the IMF expressed willingness to discuss various economic propositions, particularly in light of international trust that the country still enjoys.
Safadi’s talks with the fund came as the ministry mulled increasing taxes to fund a new salary scale for public sector employees. The government has so far failed to finalize a budget draft that would cover the cost of the wage hikes.
Most ministers have expressed strong reservations about raising taxes amid a severe economic slowdown and political uncertainty in the country.
Earlier, the IMF and the World Bank opposed the public sector salary increases and urged Safadi to avoid such a move, citing concerns over inflation and fiscal conditions.
The Economic Committees, a group that represents the private sector, has also expressed similar views.