Cabinet approves military transport aid, to be met successively in the budget — Naharnet

The Cabinet on Monday approved the granting of transport allowances to members of the armed forces, set at a monthly sum of 1.2 million Lebanese pounds for each soldier.

The Council also appointed the members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and decided to double the hourly salary of contract public teachers.

Regarding the state budget, Acting Information Minister and Education Minister Abbas al-Halabi said it was decided to hold successive meetings from Tuesday for the finalize, noting that there would be morning and evening sessions.

The Cabinet had met Monday morning for the first time in more than three months. The meeting came after Hezbollah and the Amal movement ended their boycott and were preparing to help design a recovery plan.

The draft budget for 2022 projects spending of more than £49 trillion while revenue stands at just over £39 trillion, with a deficit of around 21%. Critics say the shortfall will be covered by printing money, which would lead the Lebanese pound which has lost more than 90% of its value in the past two years to lose more in the coming months.

It is unclear what exchange rate the government will use for the budget as there are multiple rates across the country. The official rate is still 1,500 pounds for one US dollar while the black market rate is around 23,000 pounds. Several other rates are used for the withdrawal of bank deposits.

Lebanese economist Alia Moubayed called the draft budget “clever and dangerous”, with issues ranging from the use of multiple exchange rates to the indirect legalization of the transfer of foreign currency deposits into Lebanese pounds. The government’s failure or refusal to recognize the “disastrous” economic and social status resulting from decades of corruption and mismanagement by Lebanon’s political class is also concerning, she tweeted.

Lebanon’s economic crisis has been described by the World Bank as one of the worst in the world since the 1850s. The collapse left three quarters of the population of 6 million people, including 1 million Syrian refugees, in poverty.

The meeting is the first since October 12, when Hezbollah and Amal demanded the dismissal of the investigating judge in charge of the port explosion, accusing him of bias. Judge Tarek Bitar has meanwhile faced a slew of legal challenges and lawsuits calling for his removal, which forced him to suspend the investigation at least four times. The probe is currently suspended.

Bitar had summoned and charged several senior officials with willful negligence leading to the explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands. Both Shia groups have vowed to continue their efforts to remove the judge.

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