Hariri arrives outside Parliament. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)
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Parliament Thursday night endorsed the 2018 draft state budget, sending a positive signal to a conference of international donors set to be held in Paris next week aimed at shoring up Lebanon's ailing economy and aging infrastructure.Only 50 MPs voted for the bill, two MPs voted against and 11 others abstained.During the evening session, Parliament also approved a pay hike for judges, responding to a monthslong demand by Lebanon's judiciary to fix changes to their remuneration package, which was altered in last year's salary scale bill.Parliament's ratification of the 2018 budget, which contained some economic reforms, including a 20-percent cut in the budgets of all ministries and public institutions, as part of a drive to rein in state expenditures and reduce the budget deficit, estimated at more than $5.37 billion, has been deemed crucial ahead of the donor conferences and parliamentary elections.Hariri also hit back at lawmakers who had criticized the draft budget and how rapidly it passed through the Cabinet.Hariri hit back at some MPs, including MP Sami Gemayel, head of the Kataeb Party, who argued that the CEDRE conference had been politicized due to Lebanon's elections.
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