Lebanon Parliament postpones budget talks and delays IMF reform checklist

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The Lebanese parliament on Friday suspended talks on the 2022 budget after lawmakers dismissed the crowd below the quorum, further delaying efforts to meet requirements for access to IMF funds to alleviate the economic crisis. Reuters reports.

A group of parliamentarians, including newly elected lawmakers who joined a reform platform, a bloc of Christian MPs and others, walked out over the “chaotic” discussions.

“It’s unconstitutional and chaotic. (Other lawmakers) said let’s change this, change that, add here, add there, without studying anything. This is how we’re going to do this?” Halima Kaakour, a new legislator, told: Reuters.

Speaker Nabih Berri has scheduled the next session for September 26, following Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s return from travel to London for Queen Elizabeth’s funeral and to New York for the United Nations General Assembly.

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Lebanon has been mired in an economic collapse since 2019 that has impoverished more than 80 percent of the population and drained the state treasury.

A personnel-level agreement in April between the government of Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund called on authorities to increase revenues to fund the crippled public sector and increase social spending by calculating customs taxes at a “uniform exchange rate”.

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Lebanese authorities are still charging customs tariffs – a major source of state revenue – on the old peg of 1,505 Lebanese lira per dollar.

MPs had debated recalculating it to between 12,000 and 14,000 Lebanese lira per dollar, while the market rate was 38,000 Friday.

Lebanon’s economy minister said: Reuters he was “very concerned” that the budget would not comply with the IMF, which did not respond to Reuters request for comment on Friday.

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Lebanon has barely made progress on the IMF’s 10 requirements due to opposition from political factions, commercial banks and powerful private lobby groups.

“Slow progress has been made in executing some of the critical actions that we believe are necessary to move a program forward,” IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said at a news conference on Thursday. to “accelerate” the required reforms.

Read: IMF sends mission to Lebanon next week to discuss slow reform progress