Khalil proposes 2014 budget with 35 pct deficit target

File - Lebanon's Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil talks during a news conference in the Ministry of Finance in Beirut April 29, 2014. (REUTERS/Sharif Karim)

BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has finalized the 2014 draft budget with a projected deficit in spending at 34.9 percent, compared to 30.94 percent in 2013.

Sources told The Daily Star Thursday that Khalil had submitted his bill to the Cabinet Secretariat, which in turn will put it on the government’s agenda for discussion and approval. Lebanon has failed since 2005 to pass a single budget.

Local daily As-Safir said Khalil’s 2014 draft law budget did not include the controversial pay hike or mention sources of funding for the salary scale.

Parliament has struggled to pass the salary scale draft law amid concerns about its effect on the growing public deficit. Civil servants and public school teachers held numerous protests and strikes over the last two years in an effort to press lawmakers to approve the wage hike without any increase in taxes on the working class. Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled a Parliament session for June 10 to debate the bill, after the last session failed to convene for lack of quorum.

“The draft budget was primarily designed to control spending,” Khalil told As-Safir.

The Finance Ministry has suspended advanced funding in a bid to cut spending in the absence of approved budgets as well as to control public expenditures.

Khalil said the 2014 budget was similar to last year’s spending, with salary increases as a result of the high cost of living and essential appointments in some ministries.

The 2014 draft budget contains no new taxes.

Projected expenditures amounted to LL21.92 trillion in the 2014 budget compared to LL21.3 trillion last year, an increase of more than LL600 billion.

Overall revenues were estimated at about LL14.25 trillion compared to LL14.1 trillion in 2013.

The 2014 budget deficit was estimated at LL7.67 trillion, an increase of 3.96 percent from last year.

The cost of the public debt servicing was estimated at LL5.89 trillion, compared to LL5.7 trillion in 2013, an increase of about LL190 billion.

The cost of public employees’ salaries totaled about LL8.12 trillion, nearly 27 percent of the total budget expenditure, without taking into consideration any increase if the new salary scale is passed.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 06, 2014, on page 5.




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