Lebanon says it's close to finalising budget

Credit: REUTERS/HANDOUT

Lebanon's cabinet has finished discussing all items in the 2019 state budget and will hold what it expects to be a last meeting about it on Tuesday, the Information Minister said on Monday.

BEIRUT, May 20 (Reuters) - Lebanon's cabinet has finished discussing all items in the 2019 state budget and will hold what it expects to be a last meeting about it on Tuesday, the Information Minister said on Monday.

The minister, Jamal Jarrah, said the budget would have a deficit of about 7.6% of gross domestic product (GDP). Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said late on Sunday the deficit would be 8.3% of GDP or less.

"Remaining straightforward details will be dealt with this evening and entered tomorrow into the heart of the budget. I believe that tomorrow we will hold the last session. The numbers are finished and so are the legal issues," he said.

Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world at around 150% of GDP.

The coalition cabinet has met almost daily this month to finalise a budget in an effort to get spending under control and rein in debt.

President Michel Aoun has urged Lebanese to make sacrifices to rescue the country from financial crisis.

Khalil said on Saturday that the deficit reduction would include a saving of around 1 trillion Lebanese pounds ($663 million) in debt servicing costs.

He told Reuters the government aimed to reduce debt servicing costs by issuing treasury bonds at an interest rate of 1%.

(Reporting By Angus McDowall, Editing by William Maclean)

((angus.mcdowall@thomsonreuters.com; Reuters Messaging: angus.mcdowall.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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