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French Version


Lebanese business opposes tax hike

Businessmen urge government to reduce public waste

Leading businessmen and bankers said that they oppose any form of taxes, urging the government to cut public waste and combat corruption.

"Higher taxes will further exasperate the economic recession and reduce the ability of companies to hire more people," a statement by the economic organization that groups leading businessmen and bankers said.

The organization, which reappointed former Economy Minister Adnan Kassar as its president, also expressed deep concern by the political differences that are delaying reforms.

The government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora is expected to present a five-year program to the donor states that will meet in Beirut early this year.

One of the proposed papers that will be submitted to the donor meeting calls clearly for higher taxes.

According to the paper, the Finance Ministry will propose increasing the value added-tax rates from the current 10 percent to 12 percent in 2006 and 15 percent in 2008. In addition, the ministry proposes increasing taxes on interest rates on bank deposits from 5 percent to 7 percent. The paper also discusses removing the subsidies on cash-strapped Electricite du Liban which would lead to higher gasoline prices in Lebanon. It also said that the government should be able to sell two cellular networks in the third quarter of the year and privatize the fixed telephone lines in 2007 in an attempt to reduce the $38 billion public debt.
http://www.dailystar.com.lb

The organization said that the government should reduce the size of government departments, privatize some of the state-owned assets and expand the base of tax collection.

"The political differences will deal a blow to the efforts to convene Beirut One conference because the government must introduce a viable plan," the statement said.

The statement added that the draft 2006 budget must indicate a considerable reduction in public spending.

"The government must reduce some of the allocations to the ministries and public departments and cancel a number of funds and councils."

But sources said Siniora is not willing to back down on his reform program, despite strong opposition from some political parties and trade unions.

They added that the prime minister is not going to accept peace meal solutions because he believes that the donor states will not extend any soft loan to Lebanon if it was not matched with a viable plan.

Lebanon hopes to get $5 billion in soft loans from the World Bank, United States and oil rich Arab states to help reduce debt servicing.

Beirut 01-02-2006
Osama Habib
The Daily Star



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