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French Version

Budget deficit falls, but target level proves elusive (Daily Star)

Delays in privatization, securitization drive debt beyond planned goal

The government’s deficit in the first 11 months of 2003 was 30.2 percent of total spending, compared with 37.5 percent for the same period a year earlier, the Finance Ministry said in a statement released Tuesday. However, this was still above the government’s 2003 target of 25 percent, the statement said.

The fiscal deficit for the first 11 months of this year reached $1.6 billion, or 30.17 percent of spending versus $1.9 billion or 37.51 percent of spending for the same period of last year.

The ministry, which forecast that the 2003 fiscal deficit would fall to 25 percent of spending, said it missed its target due to delays in receiving approval for revenue-producing measures and the implementation of privatization and securitization.

“These budget figures on the revenue and expenditure side show the ministry has stuck more or less to figures specified in the budget bill, excluding the effect of delays in implementing the laws on illegal coastal properties … and because of its failure to privatize and securitize,” it said.

The ministry was counting on receipts from privatization and securitization operations to lower the $30 billion public debt and debt-servicing costs, which eat up almost 80 percent of government revenue and account for almost 55 percent of total government spending.

Sticking to a fiscal deficit of 25 percent and initiating privatization and securitization operations were among the key planks of a reform package the Lebanese government pledged it would implement in return for $4.4 billion in soft loans at last year’s “Paris II” donor meeting.

The ministry said it forecast the 2004 fiscal deficit would reach 32 percent of spending, but could go higher if Parliament amended some of its clauses during the budget debate.

Total spending in the first eleven months of this year reached $5.3 billion, up by 2.9 percent from $5.2 billion in the same period of last year.

Total revenue in the first eleven months of this year reached $3.73 billion, up by 15 percent from $3.27 billion from the same period last year.

The primary surplus in the budget in the first eleven months of this year, excluding debt servicing costs, was $1.3 billion versus $840 million from the same period last year.

Debt servicing costs in the first eleven months of this year reached $2.87 billion, up by 4.18 percent from $2.8 billion for the same period last year.

The ministry said it had to bear the extra burden of recurrent losses at the state-run Electricite du Liban in the first eleven months of this year, which cost the Treasury $247 million.

Beirut 22-12-2003
Dania Saadi
The Daily Star

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