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Lebanon News

Cabinet session to test agreement on overspending issue

The Lebanese Cabinet. (The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: The first test of an agreement among top leaders to revive the flagging fortunes of the government will come at Thursday’s Cabinet session, which is expected to tackle the pending issue of backing retroactive endorsement of overspending by former governments.

Ministerial sources told The Daily Star they expected the Cabinet to approve draft legislation that would retroactively approve the spending of around $6 billion for 2011, by resorting to Treasury advances until the end of the year.

The sources said the step enjoyed sufficient support among ministers, while expecting that not all of the Cabinet’s pending issues would be solved in one go.

The optimism that the government can regain momentum was generated by a dinner earlier in the week, hosted by President Michel Sleiman and attended by Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Najib Mikati.

The three reportedly agreed to set down a road map for the Cabinet to reach agreement on a range of stalled issues, from administrative appointments to the overspending issue and the 2012 budget.

Berri, according to MPs who met with him Wednesday, expressed his optimism that the Cabinet would regain its momentum, following the agreement among top leaders.

The ministerial sources said the proof of the value of the agreement among Sleiman, Berri and Mikati would appear in its implementation on a range of fronts.

Ministers will be expected to finally come to an agreement on a number of items of draft legislation and decisions – these include civil service appointments, dealing with the deteriorating security situation in the country through on-the-ground measures, endorsing the 2012 budget, and reaching a consensus on the parliamentary election law for next year. The sources said that ministers from Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement have insisted that all items that were discussed by top leaders be dealt with during a two-month period.

They said all groups represented in the government will be required to make concessions and show understanding of the reservations about the government’s performance expressed by all sides.

Sources close to Aoun’s ministers said Mikati, for his part, should not maintain a policy of “disassociating” himself from divisive issues that arise in the Cabinet, particularly the civil service appointments issue.

Meanwhile, the ongoing tension in Tripoli and north Lebanon, sources said, was presenting yet another challenge to Mikati’s government, and an incentive to improve its performance.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 07, 2012, on page 3.

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