Hariri speaks during a Cabinet session in Beirut, Friday, March 24, 2017. (The Daily Star/Ahmad Azakir)
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The Cabinet Friday approved funds to buy sophisticated equipment to bolster security at Beirut airport, but unexpectedly failed to endorse the draft budget, further delaying the ratification of the country's 2017 fiscal plan for the first time in 12 years. Although the 2017 draft budget was listed as the first item on the Cabinet agenda, ministers did not have time to review it and finally endorse it because they had to tackle 69 other items. The ministers decided to hold a special Cabinet session Monday devoted to "a final reading" of the draft budget and also study a plan to boost electricity production and reduce the annual deficit of the state-run Electricite du Liban company, estimated at $1 billion. Abi Khalil's plan, designed to revive the energy sector with the aim of saving more than $1 billion annually in electricity production, is apparently aimed at appeasing Lebanese Forces chief Samir Geagea who has demanded that the Cabinet act to privatize electricity production as a condition for the three LF ministers to vote for the draft budget.Riachi said because there were too many items on the agenda, it was decided to hold a special Cabinet session at 4 p.m. Monday to review the draft budget and broach the country's electricity plan.
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