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Lebanon passes budget critics call ‘useless piece of paper’

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Lebanon’s parliament on Monday endorsed a 2020 budget that analysts say does little to address the country’s economic and financial crisis, during a controversial session that protesters had attempted to prevent from taking place.

Some opponents deemed the budget unconstitutional because it was referred to parliament by the cabinet of former prime minister Saad Hariri shortly before it was brought down by massive protests that first swept the nation on October 17.

At the time, Hariri boasted the budget would leave Lebanon with a deficit close to zero. Monday’s approved budget foresees a six percent deficit – over $4bn – and some believe that may be optimistic. The proposal includes no new taxes.

“The proposed budget in its current form is completely detached from reality,” Nafez Zouk, an economist at Oxford Economics, told Al Jazeera. “It has only seen modest modifications from its original version under the previous government despite the economic, social and financial upheaval we’ve seen since,” he added, calling the draft of the budget a “useless piece of paper”.

The sentiment was echoed by Jad Chaaban, associate professor of economics at the American University of Beirut.

“It is basically a worthless piece of paper that doesn’t reflect the priorities of the Lebanese people and doesn’t include any key reforms,” Chaaban told Al Jazeera.

Lebanon is on the throes of its worst economic crisis since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war. The Lebanese pound has sharply devalued on black market exchanges, banks have impose limits on foreign currency withdrawals, businesses are closing their doors and tens of thousands have been laid off or seen their wages and hours slashed.

As the economy has stalled, Lebanon, which is one of the most indebted countries on Earth, has seen government coffers depleted. And the country is facing a $1.2bn Eurobond payment due in early March.

Source: Al Jazeera

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