BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil has refused to authorize extra-budgetary spending unless the draft state budget for 2014 he prepared is approved, political sources said Saturday.
The minister argued that he could only finance ministries in need of loans within a legal framework, the sources told The Daily Star.
Speaking to LBCI television, Khalil said the "there were no financial issues with the state's treasury but [the dispute lies] in the legal cover needed to authorize spending."
Due to the fact that no state budget has been approved since 2005, Cabinets are obligated under the law to adhere to the financial ceiling of the last approved budget. Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati's government had faced a similar problem but resolved the issue by approving extra-budgetary spending of LL8.9 trillion (nearly $6 billion) for 2011.
A report published in Al-Akhbar said Khalil informed ministers during this week's Cabinet session of his decision, saying that the previous Cabinet's move and the ceiling of the 2005 budget were not enough to cover public spending.
Khalil reportedly warned that approving loans to ministers via a Cabinet decision was illegal, the local daily quoted the minister as saying.
He said the only solution was to either approve the 2014 budget, or Parliament should issue a law exclusively for this Cabinet, the report said.
Political sources said Khalil’s move could be seen as a way to pressure lawmakers to revitalize the work of Parliament, which has been paralyzed in light of some MPs’ opposition to legislating in the presence of a presidential void.
Lawmakers have not yet reached a consensus on a candidate to replace former President Michel Sleiman, whose six-year term ended on May 25.