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Budget deficit reaches 31 percent in 2013

The Finance Ministry building in Beirut. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s budget deficit in 2013 rose slightly to 30.94 percent (or $4.2 billion) of spending compared to 29.47 percent (or $3.9 billion) in 2012, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

According to the statement, the budget deficit rose LL444 billion at the end of last year.

The primary deficit in 2013 also jumped to LL361 billion compared to a deficit of LL196 billion in 2012.

International rating agencies projected the country’s fiscal deficit to exceed 11 percent of GDP in 2014, warning that this surge would further affect Lebanon’s credit rating.

Former Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi warned the deficit in 2014 could reach 38 percent of spending if the government fully implemented the wage hikes for government employees and public school teachers.

Total government revenues for the entire 12 months of 2013 stood at LL14.201 trillion, recording an increase of only 0.26 percent.

Customs revenues reached LL2.157 trillion, decreasing by 4.15 percent while value added tax proceeds stood at LL3.296 trillion, an increase of only 0.62 percent.

Telecoms revenues remained almost flat at LL2.155 trillion.

Government revenues in December 2013 alone reached LL1.271 trillion compared to LL1 trillion for the same month in 2012.

However, total government expenditures in 2013 reached LL20.563 trillion compared to LL20.081 trillion in the same period of last year, an increase of 2.4 percent.

The cost of debt servicing last year rose to LL6 trillion compared to LL5.752 trillion in 2012.

Debt servicing is the primary spending item by the government, followed by the salaries of government employees and Electricite du Liban’s deficit.

State-run EDL’s losses, however, fell by 10.35 percent in 2013 to LL3.055 trillion.

Economists and experts have appealed to successive governments for a radical solution to the EDL issue, as the electricity sector is draining the already dwindling resources of the Finance Ministry.

Lebanon’s public debt in 2013 reached $63.3 billion, or 144 percent of the country’s GDP.

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil is reported to be in the process of drafting the 2014 budget, which will call for a series of taxes to finance the new salary scale.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on March 27, 2014, on page 5.

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Summary

Lebanon's budget deficit in 2013 rose slightly to 30.94 percent (or $4.2 billion) of spending compared to 29.47 percent (or $3.9 billion) in 2012, the Finance Ministry said Wednesday.

According to the statement, the budget deficit rose LL444 billion at the end of last year.

Customs revenues reached LL2.157 trillion, decreasing by 4.15 percent while value added tax proceeds stood at LL3.296 trillion, an increase of only 0.62 percent.

However, total government expenditures in 2013 reached LL20.563 trillion compared to LL20.081 trillion in the same period of last year, an increase of 2.4 percent.


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