Initial Approval of Budget Is Important for Stability of Financial System Of State Bassil: This Approval Must Take Its Constitutional, Necessary Legal Path

Head of the Change and Reform block, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, held a special meeting Tuesday morning, March 28, 2017.

In a live address he gave at the end of the reunion, Bassil apologized to the press for starting early in the morning, stressing that the approval of the budget is an important issue for Lebanon and for his bloc. “It was a long struggle for the Change and Reform bloc and one of its first demands since its foundation. We believe that yesterday, we managed to achieve some of these requirements through the approval of the budget.”

Minister Gebran Bassil deemed the cabinet’s preliminary endorsement of the awaited state budget as an essential step towards the Lebanese state’s financial stability. “This entails a final endorsement at the House of Parliament in line with all the necessary constitutional conditions,” said Bassil.

Moreover,  Bassil added “while awaiting the 2017 draft budget approval, we were able to introduce some new elements for the first time most importantly that of the “untouchable monopolizations.”

The bloc underlined three old demands namely the tax on real estate profits, raising taxes on bank profits and bank interests, which promote tax justice and abolish protected monopolies.” Minister Bassil asserted and added, “We also managed to set a ceiling for debts linked to the estimated budget deficit within the legal reforms that had been approved by the recommendations of the Finance and Budget Committee over the span of several years.”

On another note, the Minister said that his political party had also proposed during yesterday’s cabinet session, an old demand that is not directly related to the budget, which is the endorsement of the old age pension law. Bassil asserted that “it is a legitimate right that should take its course at the House of Parliament,” reminding that the Change and Reform bloc had proposed this dossier back in 2006.

Bassil also mentioned that, “in addition to some of the reductions that have been made, which amounted to 130 billion, are some of the salient points that the bloc insisted to be listed “at least partially” within the new state budget.”

These points include real estate appraisal and centralization, “we all know that real estate is not registered at its actual price and we all do it as well; and even if we wanted to do so the judge will not accept, because it will distinguish its price from the prices in the same region. Therefore, a unified guess is being made for each region in Lebanon, and then the registration process for the region is done automatically and not discretionary. This brings hundreds of millions of dollars into the treasury. The finance minister and the government have committed to doing so within a month, and we entered it in the budget as additional revenue.”

“Cell phone smuggling, and this is what Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui realized when he was Minister of Communications and accomplished to stop by a decree issued by the Council of Ministers. The decree was stopped by the former minister and yesterday we agreed to restore it.”

Several other points were also raised by minister Bassil such as the budgets’ auditing by sworn auditors at Lebanese banks, customs revenues, bank taxes, port revenues, and reduction of the tax declaration from 150 million LBP to 75 million  LBP for approximately 100 Lebanese companies. “They are all important demands for us, but we agreed to let the House of Representatives discuss them.”

Very importantly to note that Bassil explained that the government did not suggest the imposition of taxes that affect the public mainly the poor.

Finally it is to be noted that this approved budget is the first since 2005. Lebanon has not approved a state budget for 12 years due to political differences between the rival parties.

Translated by Hala Hayek