(Adds details, background)
BEIRUT, March 27 Lebanon's cabinet has approved
the country's first budget since 2005, state news agency NNA
reported on Monday, citing Information Minister Melhem Riachy
and adding that further details would be released on Thursday.
The budget, which Riachy said envisages a reduction in the
deficit, will not become law until it is also approved by the
country's parliament. He said the cabinet approved the budget
The government's failure to pass a budget for 12 years has
been a result of crippling political differences between major
power blocs after the assassination of former prime minister
Parliament's election of Michel Aoun as president in October
ended a 2-1/2-year power vacuum and led to the formation of a
new government in December with Hariri's son Saad al-Hariri as
Lebanon's economy, already hampered by low investment and
poor infrastructure, has been battered since 2011 by the war in
Syria, its dominant neighbour, which has brought more than a
million refugees, increasing the population by about a third.
An International Monetary Fund report warned in January
that the country needed a "sustained and balanced fiscal
adjustment", without which its public debt burden, already one
of the highest in the world, would continue to rise.
Hariri said in an emailed statement that cabinet discussions
that took place on Monday included a deficit target that was
The government has also been examining in a separate measure
proposals for a rise in public sector pay scales, expected to
cost about $800 million, and a range of new taxes.
(Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Catherine Evans)