The Cabinet held a meeting today at the Grand Serail chaired by the President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri. After the meeting, the Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah said:
Congratulations, we finalized the budget. I will start with what Premier Hariri said at the onset of the meeting: 'There is talk that the draft budget does not include an economic vision. The economic, development and investment vision is present in the ministerial statement, the CEDRE conference, the McKinsey plan and the fiscal correction. This will happen over five years. We have to stop such remarks and concentrate on our work, on completing the budget and sending it to Parliament.
Second, it is not true that there is no cost for the delay. Actually, the cost is there since the beginning of the year, since the delay in the formation of the government and it continues with the unjustified delay in the preparation of the budget. If you want to continue like this, I do not mind. We are at the threshold of preparing the 2020 budget, and I have too a set of proposals. If it is required to we keep going around and drowning in the 2019 numbers, there is no objection, but people should know that the deficit reduction we reached is very important, from 11.5% to 7.5%, and this is not small. We have to finish the 2019 budget'.
Jarrah added: At the end of his statement, the Prime Minister informed the Council that he will be leaving to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia early next week to participate in the Arab and Islamic summits that precede Eid al-Fitr.
Jarrah said: We finished discussing the articles and figures of the 2019 budget. After that, Premier Hariri adjourned the meeting. Another meeting, which will be scheduled later, will be held at the Baabda Palace, to announce the completion of the draft budget. Today we approved all articles and figures.
Question: How Minister Gebran Bassil was convinced, although he said earlier that he did not mind if the budget took time as long as the necessary proposals are introduced?
Jarrah: Some suggestions that were raised earlier were discussed again today. We approved some articles and added them to the budget, and there are articles we did not approve nor add.
Question: What are the issues that were not approved?
Jarrah: I will not get into details. There are around 10 to 15 items, some were added while were not and we will continue discussing them because we will start preparing the 2020 budget soon. The economic work is a continuous process that does not end with the approval of the 2019 budget.
Question: Does your remark about the cost of time mean that Minister Bassil's proposals did not provide the necessary revenues?
Jarrah: There are proposals that provided revenues and others that reduced expenditures and we worked on increasing revenues and reducing expenditures. For example, when we reached a deficit rate of 7.68%, Minister Raya al-Hassan proposed the issue of public cars plates, thus reducing the deficit to 7.5%. This means there are proposals that reduced the deficit and others that increased the revenues until we reached this result.
Question: Did everyone approve the formula or is there a possibility of amending it?
Jarrah: We approved the budget figures and articles. The economic discussion and the discussions on suggestions that may increase revenues, control expenditures, or reduce deficit is ongoing because we will start the 2020 budget. If there is something good and serious that helps in reducing the deficit, the Council of Ministers can take a decision, or send a draft law to Parliament, or prepare a decree. Thus, the process of deficit decrease, reform, fiscal balance and maintaining monetary stability is a continuous process that does not end with the completion of the 2019 budget.
Question: Why didn't Premier Hariri address the press at the end of the session?
Jarrah: Premier Hariri adjourned the session because he has a very important appointment.
Question: What is the final figure of the deficit?
Jarrah: It is 7.5% according to the minister of Finance.
Source: National News Agency