March 21, 2018 / 8:30 PM / 6 months ago

Hezbollah leader says Lebanon public finances threaten disaster

BEIRUT (Reuters) - The leader of Lebanon’s powerful Hezbollah group, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, said on Wednesday that the deeply indebted country faced disaster if it continued on the same financial path.

FILE PHOTO: Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a video screen as he addresses his supporters in Beirut, Lebanon February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

Iran-backed, Shi’ite Hezbollah is part of Lebanon’s coalition government and wields extensive influence in Lebanese politics. Nasrallah was speaking on television about the group’s platform for parliamentary elections in May.

“The danger reaches to the level of an existential threat to the state and to the country, and to the security and stability of society if the financial situation and spending continue like this,” he said.

He urged measures to rationalise spending, reduce public debt and combat corruption and wastefulness, but without giving specifics.

Lebanon has a debt-to-GDP ratio of about 150 percent, one of the highest in the world, and has endured years of weak economic growth since the start of war in neighbouring Syria in 2011.

The cabinet has agreed on a budget for 2018 and aims to push it through the parliament before a meeting of international donors in Paris early next month.

The International Monetary Fund, which expects Lebanon’s economy to grow about 1-1.5 percent this year, said last month that its debt trajectory was unsustainable and fiscal and structural reforms are needed urgently.

FILE PHOTO:Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen on a video screen as he addresses his supporters in Beirut, Lebanon February 16, 2018. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg

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