BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil Tuesday said the only means to allocate extra-budgetary spending was via a Cabinet law, maintaining that his move to block funds to ministries was not politically motivated.
“I personally am not convinced that there is another solution but for the Cabinet to issue a law to allocate the funds,” Khalil told reporters after the end of the Parliamentary Finance Committee meeting.
“What I read in the newspapers today does not answer questions [over funding] but the responses were political and aim to find cover for violations that had happened in the past.”
“The easiest and fastens way is to look for legal solution.”
The Finance Committee convened earlier Tuesday and adopted Khalil's decision to refrain from approving extra-budgetary spending unless Parliament passes an exclusive law that would allow the Cabinet to do so.
Khalil has refused to authorize extra-budgetary spending for ministers unless the draft state budget for 2014 he prepared is approved. Khalil’s decision had raised fears that the salaries of public sector employees would not be paid at the end of the month.
He has argued that he could only finance ministries in need of loans within a legal framework and at a news conference Monday, said he had blocked requests by various ministers to approve loans that exceed the budgets allotted to their ministries.
Faced with increased expenses, the government of former Prime Minister Najib Mikati approved extra-budgetary spending of LL8.9 trillion (nearly $6 billion) for 2011 without Parliament’s authorization.
The Cabinets of Fouad Siniora resorted to a similar step between 2006 and 2009, spending around $11 billion over budget.
The March 14 alliance has expressed its willingness to attend a session to legalize extra-budgetary spending for the Cabinet only if the extra-budgetary spending by Siniora’s Cabinets were also legalized, according to sources from the coalition.
Meanwhile, Defense Minister Samir Moqbel Tuesday said the decision to freeze funds for ministries pending the approval of the draft state budget obstructs the work of the Lebanese Army at a critical time.
After meeting with his ministry’s staff to discuss the budget for the year 2014, Moqbel said: “I will discuss the issue of funds with the finance minister and others in both that ministry and the defense one.”
“My talks will aim at removing all obstacles preventing the Army from doing its job in terms of securing needed funds, particularly as this stage requires [us] to pay great importance and attention to strengthening the Army and its abilities.”
Moqbel also discussed with the ministry staff, obstacles disrupting the work of the Army in terms of securing needed funds to finance its demands in medicine, laboratory equipment, and hospital expenses.