Lebanese Parliament deliberates 2024 budget: Calls for progressive taxes and economic growth; Here are the highlights

Lebanon News
2024-01-25 | 06:01
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Lebanese Parliament deliberates 2024 budget: Calls for progressive taxes and economic growth; Here are the highlights
Lebanese Parliament deliberates 2024 budget: Calls for progressive taxes and economic growth; Here are the highlights

On Thursday, the Lebanese Parliament held its third session to discuss the 2024 budget.

During the morning session, MP Halimé El Kaakour affirmed that taxes are necessary for the state, adding: "We must not 'neglect' them and the budget should impose progressive taxes."

Expressing that "there are numerous flaws affecting the 2024 budget project," she stated that Lebanon urgently needs a budget that promotes economic growth.

In turn, MP Alain Aoun reported that the government is not effectively combating tax evasion and is putting pressure on those committed to payment. 

"The 2024 budget follows a 'scissors and paper' logic without a deficit," he said.

MP Cynthia Zarazir said that the budget does not include any financial reforms to protect the society, nor does it build a productive economy. Instead, it legitimizes "the dismantling of the state, responds to brokerage logic, and affirms that this system is incapable of implementing reforms."
MP Razi EL Hage said: "We need a budget that promotes economic recovery and growth, not exclusively tied to public accounting but rather focused on 'unleashing' the economic wheel." 

MP Osama Saad, meanwhile, commented: "It is time for a national consensus on Lebanon's defense policy, and the election of the president is our role as representatives of the country."

He added that the Lebanese people deserve an independent president free from international and regional axes.
Saad, from the Parliament, revealed that: "We are discussing the budget amid serious social repercussions, and reports indicate that 84 percent of the Lebanese people cannot meet their basic needs. The budget has not addressed the problems of these individuals; instead, it has further complicated the situation."
MP Bilal Abdallah noted from the Parliament that the private sector in Lebanon "considers its earnings as an economy that escapes direct taxes. It is time to put an end to this, and I advocate raising taxes on medications manufactured in Lebanon."

He urged the increase of the value of contributions to the National Social Security Fund and addressed the constant "attacks" on the poor in the public sector who still receive the minimum wage.

MP Salim Sayegh said: "We deal with this budget, prioritizing the people's interests as it reflects a flawed accounting reality and lacks a thoughtful financial perspective."

Sayegh asked: "How will the Central Bank of Lebanon determine a unified exchange rate, and under which exchange rate system will this be established in a 'dollarized' system?"
Meanwhile, MP Fayssal Karame said that constitutionally, "this session was supposed to be for the election of a president, but everything in the country has become 'exceptional,' and despite that, we still hear voices rejecting dialogue."

He appealed to parliamentary blocs to place political differences in their proper context, suggesting that the parliament speaker is the one to call for dialogue to elect a president.

He added: "Any budget approved without 'balancing accounts' is unconstitutional."
Speaking in Parliament, MP Mark Daou suggested that this budget still follows the "same logic;" therefore, it is necessary to reduce indirect taxes that affect the general population. 

Additionally, he said that the government has not allocated sufficient financial amounts for municipalities within the budget.
MP Adnan Traboulsi reported that doubling fees on individual enterprises reduces encouragement for the investment volume needed in the country. 

"The government has not approved projects for 'balancing accounts' laws, as their approval within the deadlines is a constitutional requirement for the approval of the general budget," he added.

Additionally, MP Bilal Houshaymi said: "We cannot accept a large amount exceeding the imports without clarifications. This budget is closer to 'constructive rhetoric' unrelated to reality."

He stated that there are "many loopholes in the budget, relying on a 'patchwork' approach that leads to more problems."
In turn, MP Paula Yacoubian stated there is no will to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), adding that the "most dangerous aspect is what we hear from the Prime Minister, misleadingly suggesting that Lebanon is emerging from the financial crisis."
MP Nabil Badr expressed in Thursday's session that "If we had fulfilled this obligation from the beginning of the presidential crisis, we could have spared ourselves this ordeal and avoided this controversy. There is neither a vision nor a goal in this budget, and it is time to address the problems definitively."

MP Firas Hamdan highlighted that from October 7th until today, the government has not devised an emergency plan, and "there is an enemy on the border targeting us every day. Anyone who approves the budget without 'balancing accounts' is corrupt."
During the Parliament's evening session, MP Ali Hassan Khalil stated: "We were able to protect our presence in this country, and there is no room for the idea of power and its surplus in our relations with others. Our affairs cannot be straightened out by monopolizing nationalism, inventing enmities, and we are keen on those with whom we differ."

He affirmed the commitment to completing the Taif Agreement, achieving expanded administrative decentralization, reviewing the electoral law, and establishing the Senate.

MP Ali Hassan Khalil expressed that there are real gaps in the budget that cannot be addressed without a government.

Meanwhile, MP Hussein Hajj Hassan noted that talking about a zero deficit in the budget is theoretical, and "we still have a deficit in the Balance of Trade, and there is a deep state that wants Lebanon to remain a consumer country and not a productive one."

During the session, MP Ghassan Hasbani stated that the budget is far from any real reform and contributes to destroying what remains of the "legitimate economy," adding: "We have not seen any reforms in the public sector to enhance state revenues."

Fouad Makhzoumi said the budget "lacks any real tax reform, and everyone agrees implicitly to avoid taking responsibility for the crisis."
Makhzoumi said: "Enough evading signing the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is necessary."

MP Abdul Rahman Bizri said that this budget is distinctly tax-oriented and comes at a time of "rampant high prices," noting: "We fear that the tax collection will be at the expense of committed and low-income groups."

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