Lebanon’s cabinet on Monday approved an austerity budget following weeks of debate and street protests against what the government acknowledged were “unpopular decisions.’’
In a session chaired by President Michel Aoun, the cabinet referred the 2019 draft budget to parliament for endorsement.
Lebanon is under pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to impose austerity measures in return for financial support.
The country has one of the biggest public debt ratios in the world, equivalent to about 150 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP).
Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said after the cabinet session that the budget would reduce the deficit to 7.59 per cent of GPD, compared to 11.5 per cent in 2018.
“This is a very satisfactory figure, we hope that the actions taken by the government will reach a desired end,’’ Khalil said.
Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was quoted by local media on Monday as saying that the legislature will need a month to ratify the draft budget.
Hundreds of protesters, mainly retired army personnel, took to the streets over the past three weeks amid fears that the government could cut their monthly pensions.
Berri sounded the alarm in April on the economic situation in the country, which he called “dangerous.’’
“We must find a way to reduce the public deficit, otherwise Lebanon will face negative consequences,’’ he said.