During last night's session in Baabda, cabinet approved in principle an economic reform package which includes a plan to borrow $2 billion in foreign currency to help cover the government's 1998 budget deficit. Prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri today described cabinet's decision as a new beginning in the country's efforts to tackle its deficit. The premier said foreign debt was not dangerous a long as it did not exceed 50 percent of internal liabilities. The government has targeted next year's budget deficit of 37.46 percent with spending of 7,925 billion Lebanese Liras and revenues of 4,956 billion. The new financing plan includes raising $2 billion through Eurobonds, with a maximum of $400 million to be taken up by
Lebanese banks that have been major purchasers of past issues. The plan known as the Baabda agreement still needs the approval of the parliament. The economic revival plan drops former proposals for increased charges for petrol and car registrations, which House speaker Berri had described as a burden on the poor. Following last night's session, Hariri also stressed that Lebanon was still recovering from a war that left behind burdensome deficits.
In parliament today, the budget and finance committee was due to study the budgets of the ministries of oil and transportation this afternoon. The committee yesterday decided to reduce the budgets of the presidency and the ministries of justice and housing by an average of 15 to 25 %. Meanwhile, the justice and administration parliamentary committee continued studying amendments on the municipal and mayoral election draft election law. The committee ratified clause 18 of the law related to the election of the president and the vice president by the municipal council. The committee also ratified clause 19 related to the principle of appointment.
Spokesman for former Hizbullah leader Sheikh Sobhi Tufeili today said the cleric decided to suspend protest actions against the Lebanese government after receiving official promises to ease poverty in rural areas. Sheikh Khodr Tlays told reporters the movement suspended the decision to block roads which was to be carried out again on December 14 and 15 to an unspecified time. Tlays added the decision to ban ministers and deputies from visiting the Baalbeck-Hermel area was also lifted. Tufeili had earlier urged Bekaa Valley residents to block roads as part of his hunger revolt campaign launched in July to pressure the government into easing poverty.
Tlays said the decision to suspend protest moves followed contacts between Tufeili and top Lebanese officials who promised to finance some development projects in the area. Tlays added the contacts and discussions took place with House Speaker Nabih Berri and deputy Khalil Al-Hrawi. He warned that Tufeili's supporters would resume protest actions if the government failed to deliver on its promises to improve the situation of the area.
Acting Minister of State Fouad Sanyoura today held talks with the Kuwaiti economic delegation which is on a visit to Lebanon. Head of the delegation, Abdel Razzak Al-Khaled who also heads the Kuwaiti chamber of commerce and industry said during a tour in down town Beirut earlier today his country appreciates Lebanon's reconstruction drive stressing the will of Kuwaiti investors to come to Lebanon and make business in all sectors here.
Sanyoura for his part praised Kuwait's support to Lebanon in different fields pointing out the number of agreement signed between the two countries. Sanyoura added those cooperation agreements help boost bilateral ties and especially economic ties between the two countries. The Acting Minister of Finance encouraged Kuwaiti businessmen to invest in Lebanon. At the finance ministry and after meeting the Kuwait delegation Sanyoura stressed the importance of cabinet's approval of the Baabda economic revival plan. He told reporters that cooperation was the dominant feature in the government-parliament relationship nowadays. Sanyoura also voiced faith in the efforts of both government and parliament to reduce the budget deficit by cutting down on expenditure on the one hand and increasing revenues thus improving the country's financial situation on the other.
The Luxurious Hotel in the heart of Kaslik, Jounieh, Lebanon
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