Lebanon council of ministers continues its crucial meetings to adopt 1998 fiscal budget under political campaigning from inside and outside the government. The council is to meet again today and prime minister Hariri said the budget will be finalized in coming days. He said the government priority is to enhance collection of revenues and to carry on an administrative reform. Hariri said rising up price of gasoline was not placed on the meeting.
House speaker Nabih Berri before the meeting launched an attack against the prime minister and the finance ministry accusing Hariri of revenging from ministers who opposed him by squeezing their ministries' allocations. He threatened a parliament general discussion debate in short time.
Mr. Berri reiterated his rejection to the increase of gasoline price and furthermore rejected any other indirect increase on any commodity. He said what would rescue the budget and ensure a future stable financial situation is the direct taxes which do not levy the poor and middle class.
He argued how to exercise austerity at a time the finance ministry employed 300 supervisor without passing the civil service council's exam. Two loyal ministers of Mr. Berri minister Mahmoud abu Hamdan and Ayoub Hmayed reiterated the same campaign during the government meeting. Abu Hamdan was angered after the prime minister refused at the meeting a plan to enhance funds for the housing. Mr. Berri quoted saying refusal of the plan was a reaction to Abu Hamdan's refusal of the gasoline price increase. Prime minister Hariri described the government discussions as normal and every minister outlined his views over allocations and figures for his ministry.
He affirmed that the budget deficit won't exceed 37 per cent, and there will be no spending from outside the budget figures. Finance minister Fouad Seniora said he will be present at his office today to receive suggestions of the ministers on their budget allocation.
Electricity minister Elie Hubeika proposed collection of electricity bills according to yearly consumption and levying subscribers a monthly amount without referring to counters. He estimated wasted money in electricity by 15 per cent and instead of the yearly collection of L.L500bn the actual collection was L.L400bn. He pointed out that the electricity administration is loosing 10 per cent that is L.L40bn in south Lebanon, and if the electricity has to go on it should collect L.L700bn. Hubeika said most of 40,000 meters that are fixed at hospitals, schools and hotels are illegally consuming the power.
- Foreign minister Fares Boueiz is to preside today in Paris the conference of Lebanese ambassadors in Europe at the Lebanese embassy premises. Agenda of the conference includes latest developments of the peace process and Lebanon's stand toward it. Boueiz will focus on the European role and the necessity to enhance it. Two previous conferences had been held in the past for the ambassadors in Europe one in 1976 and another in 1982. Lebanon has no ambassadors in Italy, Switzerland and Holland.
- Pope Jean Paul II appointed bishop Antonio Mario Vigilo, 59 years old, as new papal envoy to Lebanon, Kuwait and emissary to the Arab peninsula. The appointment was announced Oct. 2 .
-The parliament health committee after a meeting with health minister Suleiman Franjieh and the hospitals union said priority should be given to a good hospitalization together with enhancing the health ministry supervision. The committee urged to speed up paying due debts of the private hospitals.
- Head of Lebanon's press association Mohammed Baalbaki quoted the US ambassador Richard Jones saying during a visit to the association that the US is in support of the Lebanese press freedom to a large extent. Baalbaki quoted the ambassador saying entry visas to the US would be issued in Lebanon after about 9 months time.
-Mufti Mohammad Rashid Kabbani and sheikh Mohammad Mahdi Shamseddine in a joint statement issued yesterday asked the government to give specific time to the religious media in the state run Tele Liban on Fridays and Sundays and on religious occasions "so that there will be no need for religious media".
-The Syrian forces evacuated posts along the coastal line in north Lebanon namely at Qalmoun northern outlet, Deir Natour, a post at Kfar Hazir and another at Bechmazine. No reason is given on the evacuation recalled that these checkpoints and posts were manned by the Syrian forces since 1976.
-Six Lebanese labors were wounded yesterday in a fighting with Syrian labors at the Serail in downtown Beirut. The ISF intervened and arrested some.
-Akkar MP Issam Fares continued his current visit to Moscow upon the invitation of patriarch of Moscow and all Russia. The patriarch reiterated his wish to visit Lebanon once again.
-Homentmen-Beirut women won for the 44th time Lebanon basketball championship of the first class clubs beating yesterday Antranik-Beirut 58-57 in extra time.
-Lebanon ping pong union will organize first women international championship under supervision of the international union from Oct. 23 to 26 at Mont La Salle. Awards total $20,000 and it is the first of such championship for women.
-The Lebanese basketball union decided to postpone basketball championship for the first class clubs until November this year upon request of the clubs.
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