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French Version

Hariri, Siniora say key to budget is management (Daily Star)

Hariri, Siniora say key to budget is management
‘Paris ii’ commitments demand financial efficiency
Government will try to reduce high-yield debt with cheaper paper to cut costs

Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and Finance Minister Fouad Siniora said on Tuesday that Lebanon should adopt new means to handle its public debt, which the government is trying to restructure to cut debt servicing costs.

“It seems necessary for us to gradually find a legal and administrative infrastructure that is more developed … and closer to the modern standards many countries in the world are currently following,” said Hariri at the opening of a three-day conference on managing public debt.

The 10th conference on managing treasury is being held for the first time in Lebanon in cooperation with the French Embassy in Movenpick. “The ‘Paris II’ conference linked commitments made by participating countries to provide big financial backing to Lebanon with a parallel commitment by the Lebanese government to use efficient means to steer public finances,” said Hariri in a speech read out by Finance Minister Fouad Siniora.

The Hariri government drew $4.4 billion in soft loans from financial donors at last year’s Paris II meeting to help trim its public debt and debt servicing costs eating away at government revenue.

The government is using the Paris II cash to replace high-yielding government debt with cheaper paper to trim its public debt and debt servicing costs.

The prime minister said the financial commitments made at Paris II requires the government to speed up the process of restructuring the public finances, improve revenue creation and increase benefits from expenditure.

Hariri said reform programs are essential to bring accountability and transparency to public accounting. “This is natural particularly as financing of fiscal budget is more and more being financed through instruments provided by local and international markets to meet its current account needs and service the debt or even to finance big projects such as infrastructure,” the prime minister added.

Siniora said the finance ministry had to undertake new steps to better steer Lebanon’s public debt, which has topped $30 billion.

“We should speed up the process of resorting to new instruments and guidelines for the administration of treasury operations, the public debt and preparing fiscal budgets,” said Siniora.

He said the ministry is currently undertaking a number of steps to meet new standards to manage the public debt.

“Modernization programs that are currently being undertaken by the ministry of finance over the different departments number over 15 workshops,” said Siniora. “Persistence in conducting reform has yielded positive results in organizing the financial administration and simplifying the flow of paperwork in the various departments of the ministry,” he added.

Beirut 20-10-2003
Dania Saadi
The Daily Star

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