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The caretaker cabinet is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. today to discuss the 2024 budget draft law, which includes an increase to value-added tax from 11 to 12 percent, a lower deficit than the previous year and salaries deemed insufficient by a public employee union. The 2024 budget discussion follows the caretaker cabinet’s approval of this year’s budget on Monday. Lawyer and taxpayers’ association (ALDIC) president Karim Daher told L’Orient Today that despite the increased VAT and modifications to taxes, “investment spending is virtually non-existent” in the texts “compared to operating expenditure.” The 2024 budget projects a deficit worth around $480 million (at the Sayrafa rate of LL85,500 to the dollar), while nearly 59.28 percent of its $2.33 billion expenditure will go towards personnel costs. The League of Public Administration Employees said they would not hold a previously announced protest outside the Grand Serail, as they said the budget discussions were not yet "starting seriously" in their view.
State telecoms operator Ogero entered negotiations to obtain one percent of the fuel state electricity provider Electricité du Liban (EDL) receives from a barter agreement with Iraq, caretaker Telecoms Minister Johnny Corm told L’Orient Today. Corm claimed the amount requested from EDL “could meet Ogero's needs all year round.” Today's caretaker cabinet meeting includes a credit request from Ogero to purchase fuel, which the minister said would prevent breakdowns at Ogero stations like yesterday's in Baabda, Mount Lebanon, Chouf and Akkar. Corm noted that fuel financing would not need a “dollar line of credit from Banque du Liban,” while acting central bank governor Wassim Manssouri on Monday reiterated his refusal to “fund the Lebanese state, neither in lira nor in dollars.” Fuel shortages have repeatedly interrupted Ogero's network and briefly raised fears of a total breakdown in May.
Lebanese journalist Mariam Majdouline Laham, after her release on bail last night, criticized the police’s forcible entry into her home and seizure of her computer during a one-day detention in an investigation of her alleged defamation of a religious court authority. A judicial source confirmed to L’Orient Today that the hearing was linked to Laham's July social media post implying corruption on the part of Sunni Higher Court of Beirut Judge Mohammad Ahmad Assaf. Laham received the summons on Tuesday without being notified of the reason behind it. Laham's lawyer, Diala Chehadeh, confirmed that Laham refused to sign a pledge to not "repeat the crime," noting that publications had been deleted from her social media accounts. Chehadeh added that the police also forcibly searched the homes of Laham's mother and sister.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati told UNIFIL head Gen. Aroldo Lazaro that the "government is ready to cooperate with UNIFIL, through the army." The meeting comes days after the UN Security Council voted to extend the United Nations Interim Forces in Lebanon's mandate and preserve a controversial measure allowing peacekeepers to move around the country freely without army authorization. Lebanon's former UN representative Amal Mudallali yesterday threatened to file "slander and defamation" lawsuits after Foreign Ministry statements blamed her for the article's inclusion in the 2022 resolution renewing the UNIFIL's mandate.
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Business as usual in the 2023 and 2024 draft budgets”
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz
Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect the fact that the League of Public Administration Employees are not holding a protest today over cabinet's discussion of the 2024 draft budget.