BEIRUT — “Forces of Change” MP Ibrahim Mneimneh on Friday criticized the draft budget being discussed at the parliamentary Finance and Budget Committee and the decision to raise customs tariffs saying that it “[serves] the interest of a small population at the cost of the general public who earn [a] limited income.”
Here’s what we know:
• A letter leaked on Thursday from caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to caretaker Finance Minister Youssef Khalil shows in which he asks him to go through with raising customs taxes at the rate of LL20,000 against the dollar. On Tuesday, Mikati met with several ministers including Khalil in which the raising of the customs tariffs was reportedly decided.
• In a statement, Mneimneh, who’s a member of the Finance and Budget Committee, said such moves “should be done among a full economic and financial vision, and within a roadmap that decides how to defend the society’s interests amid the ongoing [economic] collapse.”
• Mneimneh also said that raising the custom tariffs happened in a “chaotic and biased way” and should have taken into account “uniting the currency rate” instead of its current form which is an “unfair distribution of financial losses.”
• Regarding the budget being discussed at the Finance and Budget Committee meetings, Mneimneh said that it is done based on “a purely mathematical calculation which does not reflect a practical economic vision to the path for financial recovery.”
• “In our opinion, any amendment in the numbers of the budget based on the discussion in the [Finance and Budget] Committee, will not achieve what is expected from this budget, unless its essence and the goals it should accomplish gets rethought.” Cabinet approved the 2022 budget in February and submitted it to Parliament before being discussed at the Finance and Budget Committee, which is yet to approve it after months of discussions. On Thursday, Finance and Budget Committee’s head Ibrahim Kanaan (FPM/Metn) said that his committee has given “the government and the finance minister [Youssef Khalil] a week deadline to give us the numbers of [fiscal] incomes and expenses” to decide what to do accordingly.