BEIRUT — The Finance Ministry has been given until Tuesday to deliver required information to the Finance and Budget Committee or the committee will be forced to return the 2022 budget draft law to the government.
The Finance and Budget Committee resumed today its review of the 2022 draft budget, after Finance Minister Youssef Khalil provided the committee last week with the long-awaited missing information around the use of multiple exchange rates in forecasting revenues and expenses.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan (FPM/Metn), chair of the Finance and Budget Committee, stated Thursday that the government has failed again to explain the reasons behind its use of multiple exchange rates in the forecasting of revenues and expenses, despite multiple requests from the committee dating back to April. Kanaan added that “we [Finance and Budget Committee] have seriously thought about returning the budget draft proposal back to the government”; however, he added, “we can not risk not having a budget given the caretaker status of the government.” Kanaan added “the government needs to get its act together.”
MP Ghada Ayoub (Lebanese Forces/South I), member of the Finance and Budget Committee, told L’Orient Today that “the government did nothing, the report the Finance Ministry sent is useless.”
The committee started the review process of the 2022 budget on March 8, a few days after the government sent the draft to Parliament. On March 16, it approved the budgets allocated to the ministries of administrative development, foreign affairs, education and industry, then on March 18, it approved the budget plans for the defense, labor and social affairs ministries, and on March 23, it finalized all the ministerial budgets, with the budget for the Energy Ministry being the last one.
On April 5, the committee met again to continue reviewing the 147 articles of the budget law, and Kanaan said after the meeting that the budget should not be constructed using different exchange rates and that the committee asked the Finance Ministry to provide a clear explanation on the use of different exchange rates in the calculation of revenues and expenditures, and added that the committee will suspend discussions around these specific articles, until they receive an answer from the government. Most of the remaining articles were finalized.
On June 15, after the parliamentary elections a month earlier, the newly voted in committee met for the first time and called on the caretaker government to “exceptionally meet” and discuss the 2022 budget.
On June 30, caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, caretaker deputy PM Saade Chami, caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil and caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam attended the committee meeting. Mikati then announced changes to the Financial Sector Rehabilitation Strategy and said that the government is planning to set up a financial recovery fund to reimburse depositors. Kanaan said after the meeting that the government promised to send within days its recovery plan, he added that concerning the 2022 budget the committee is still waiting for the Finance Ministry’s report.
On July 8, the committee met once more, it finalized the review of the banking secrecy law, which was eventually approved by Parliament on Tuesday; however, the committee was still waiting for answers from the Finance Ministry.
The passing of the budget is one of the key requirements to unlock $3 billion in assistance from the International Monetary Fund.