Lebanon's cabinet at its meeting today is going to lay down guidelines of the 1998 fiscal budget with estimation of revenues and expenditures . The positive atmosphere that prevailed during the previous cabinet meeting eased down the political pressures and the monetary strain that pressed on the Lebanese currency.
The monetary market is said to have gained once again its stability and demand on the US currency declined. The central bank release on Sept. revealed that the central bank sold out $90mn during the past 15 days to meet the demand and support the Lebanese Lira. The interbank interest rate yesterday went down to 10 per cent instead of 40 per cent, which signaled a decline of the monetary pressures.
However, the economical groups and the labor union see that ease of pressures has no solid economical foundations.
State minister for finance Fouad Seniora yesterday reviewed the "basket of suggestions proposed by ministers" and compiled it in a table that indicates its estimated revenues. Seniora presented the table to prime minister Rafic Hariri and it will be presented today at the cabinet meeting. The cabinet may adopt today a collection of taxes and charges including the state seaside land property charges, illegal constructions, charges on imports, increasing charge of issuing passports from the present 100,000 LL. for five years to 100,000 for each year, increasing the charge on foreign labors work permit from LL. 200,000 to 300,000, car mechanics charge, charges on restaurants and clubs, registration fees of the Lebanese university, in addition to raising cellular telephones and cement taxes.
The budget allocations to both the ministry of health and the displaced were a main concern. Health minister Suleiman Franjieh who held a private meeting with premier Hariri said as long the issue of the budget is political there will be a continued strain. During the day he warned that his ministry cannot maintain austerity.
Franjieh reiterated his rejection to the increase of gasoline price. Some speculations said the gasoline price will be increased 3,000 LL. instead of 5,000 LL.
Minister of the displaced Walid Jumblat told Hariri that whatever allocations are given to his ministry it won't be enough because it depends on treasury lending, and since the government decision is not to spend out of the budget, the amounts allocated to his ministry will meet only part of his ministry's needs.
Chairman of the banks association Francois Bassil, at a joint meeting of the economical groups, the labor union and the parliament budget and finance committee, warned of more loans and taxes. He asserted that the government can reduce the budget deficit if it can collect more seriously all the taxes and charges from all tax payers in all regions. He warned of touching the monetary stability that had been built with high cost during the past four years and said everyone should realize the seriousness of any negative shift in this regard.
Bassil said despite the decrease of the income tax to 10 per cent his estimation say that only 30 per cent of the tax was actually collected. The conferees issued series of recommendations including strict supervision of the public spending, starting a real administrative reform and effectuating collection of revenues.
In addition they recommended to adhere to strict ceiling for both the public spending and borrowing and linking them to economical growth rate.
The Israeli radio quoted an Israeli senior security official saying the case of south Lebanon will be placed on top agenda of the Israeli government during the new Hebrew year. The source said Israel should adopt firm decisions on the future of south Lebanon. He said Israel has presented series of proposals aimed to find solution for south Lebanon but the real problem is that Lebanon's government is not free and not independent and incapable to take decisions on the future of the state of Lebanon. The Israeli chief of staff Gen. Shahak said at the present circumstances the Israeli army should remain in the security zone in south Lebanon and "if we could find another option which guarantee security of north Israel we would work in accordance".
One SLA man killed yesterday in an attack launched by the Islamic resistance against the outpost Aitaroun close to the borderline. Two other SLA posts at Barachit and Beit Yahoun came under shelling from the Islamic resistance.
- House speaker of Yemen Abdallah el Ahmar arrived yesterday to Beirut in a short visit and departed the same day to Damascus. He visited Qana martyrs cemetery and held talks with his Lebanese counterpart Nabih Berri. He expressed support for the Lebanese and Islamic resistance and described the US policy as unfair. He said the resistance in Lebanon is acting on behalf of all the Arabs. He assailed Doha economical summit and said it serves Israel and dishonor every Arab.
- Prime minister Rafic Hariri is to visit Armenia at the end of October where he will sign agreements. Hariri was informed by the ambassador of the Russian union of his country's intention to inaugurate a tourist office.
- US ambassador Richard Jones after visiting the house speaker and foreign ministry said the Lebanese and Syrian peace tracks are close together and the Doha conference is not a concession to Israel.
- Representatives from the US defense and foreign ministries are in Lebanon since Monday to discuss with Lebanon's officials joining a world program on removing land mines. Already 15 states joined the program which was initiated by the White House and run by US various departments. Lebanon has requested to join the program last May.
-The Grouping for the Republic led by former MP Albert Mkheiber said the outside world know that it is futile to discuss the case of south Lebanon with Lebanese officials because the case is out of their hand and in the hands of others.
-Sheikh Subhi Tufeili yesterday said that as of October 5th he will go to the streets demonstrating as a result of the continued government non response to demands. He said there will be escalatory moves because the authority is going on with the same policy.
-State prosecutor Adnan Addoum warned on eve of the new judicial year of any assault against the judiciary. He said the judiciary is an independent authority in itself and nothing behind it except God and conscious. He said judges have their morals too and things reached to maximum. He hoped that the judiciary will accomplish its work this year and finish major files .
-Mar Roukoz meeting for Jezzine expressed worries of the cases of selling land property including some houses in Jezzine area calling the authority to refrain to register these sales. The meeting thanked the government for buying the apple crop this year and hoped for more social initiatives.
-Ansar football team overcame Salam-Zghorta 4-1 at Bourj Hammoud stadium inaugurating the 32nd round of Lebanon's cup 26.
-Laurant Dagher and Sam Sawaya on their Wrangler jeep won the car challenge of 4x4 cars organized by the ATCL.
-Lebanon's basketball women championship is to end today in a match between Antranik-Beirut and Homentmen-Beirut who are competing for the first rank.
-Shabiba Boushriyah volleyball team is to go to Egypt for training upon an invitation by the Egyptian Heliopolis team. The Lebanese team is preparing to play for the Arab volleyball teams championship-16.
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