Hariri: Cabinet approved budget and no new taxes on bread or fuel

The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri made a statement at the end of the cabinet meeting this evening at the Grand Serail:

“First, we completed the discussion of the draft budget and the ministers will soon receive the final version. Today’s discussion tackled the atmosphere that prevailed in the last two days, particularly the lies regarding taxes imposed on the citizens. I want to reassure all the Lebanese: none of the mentioned taxes is included in the salary scale or the draft that we are discussing. I wanted to be clear on this issue and personally tell the Lebanese that if we have anything to put forward we will do it openly. The taxes imposed in the scale are known since 2014 and nothing new was added to this scale.”

He added: “Concerning the budget, all the talk about an increase of taxes on bread, fuel and the other items that were mentioned in the long list that you saw are all lies. We did not even mention any on them I previously said that this government is the government of regaining confidence because we want to build this relationship with the Lebanese with clarity. If we want to do anything we will announce it and no one should throw accusations on the government or the parliament.”

With regard to corruption, Hariri said: “We all want to fight corruption, which accumulated due to the vacuum that we experienced and the situation that prevailed in the country. Today we are working to achieve this budget to put an end to the squander in several places. At the same time, we made appointments in inspection, security and other sectors and we will continue in all state institutions to stop the squander in the state. There are vacancies in several places and you know what corruption and reform means to the President, to us and to several parties that want to fight this corruption.”

He said: “We want to say things as they are and we want to be frank with the Lebanese in all the things that we will do. When we discuss the budget, we discuss it positively in order to ratify it after 12 years without a budget. This is the basic goal. When I said that we would approve the salary scale, we will approve it in parallel with the reforms. The scale profits to the military, teachers and administration employees, which means that it profits to the Lebanese citizen. We have to ensure the revenues to be able to ratify this scale. Our financial situation is not great. We have social and financial problems and a big debt. All these issues should be solved and when we want to increase spending in the country, especially on the wages scale, there should be reforms and increases in fees to cover the scale.”

He concluded: “Today we completed the budget in a very positive way and the final version will be distributed to the ministers and we will all revise it and ratify it as soon as possible. I will be visiting Egypt next week, and I will contact the President of the Republic to set a date for the next session.”

Asked about the campaign launched against the scale, he said: “This campaign was launched against the positive consensus among all the political blocs that are trying to achieve several issues that were blocked in the past, like appointments, the oil issue. Some do not want consensus and want to spread lies because they noticed that this government and this consensus can achieve good things in the country and there are people who have no interest in this”.

Regarding taxes on banks, companies and financial institutions, Hariri said that they are necessary but should be well studied, because “our duty is to revitalize the economy while at the same getting money”.

Asked if he fears for the government, he said: No, there was a panic because of the lies saying that we are imposing taxes on the citizens. I tell the people make sure of what you read on the social media. No one should think that this government is not united and what happened yesterday is not the end of the world. On the contrary, what happened yesterday will reaffirm the cohesion of this government and we will ratify all things in a faster pace than before.

Asked when parliament will meet to ratify the scale, he answered: As you know, Speaker Berri decides this step and not me.

About the street protests, he said: I tell all those demonstrating for the scale that there is no need to demonstrate because we will give you your rights. The government and the parliament took a decision in this regard and they will implement it.

Source: National News Agency