The Lebanese Parliament has approved the 2024 budget… and taxes and fees have increased manifold.
The Lebanese Parliament approved the draft 2024 budget prepared by the government after amendments by the Finance and Budget Committee, after two days of observations and criticism by representatives. Conservative Prime Minister Najib Mikati responded to them on Friday, particularly the “Freedom Patriotic Movement” and its leader, M.P. Gibran Basil expressed high-profile stances in the background, alleging that the government's decisions were unconstitutional. He ended his speech by saying, “Elect a president and leave us alone” (leave us alone).
After Mikati's speech, Parliament debated the budget, item by item, put it to a vote and then recommended to the government to ratify it and promulgate it in a decree. It was described as a tax budget bar at best, and some representatives and experts of the economy think that it lacks both economic and social views, and besides that it came without cutting off an account in violation of the law. It is “not the best”, Mikati admitted.
Taxes on municipal fees, registration papers, travel fees and eco-friendly cars, and taxes on bank accounts, fines and hikes on maritime property owners were approved at high rates reaching tens of thousands. Tax on profits of financial institutions, including an exceptional 17 percent penalty on beneficiaries. From a non-individual banking base, an exceptional tax was also levied on merchants who benefited from the support provided by the Bank of Lebanon. The volume of business, including oil companies, is ten percent.
Taxes must be paid according to the price set by the Bank of Lebanon, and Mikati spoke about this matter: “If we approve the budget at an exchange rate of 89 thousand (today's black market price), the banks will have to declare their bankruptcy tomorrow, so the price must be set between banks and banks.
Mikati, in his speech, spoke of those who believe that their “survival in the political scene depends on running a machine of contempt, indignity and strife.” Thinking that he is tempting us to answer him in the same language. He missed that he was not worthy of praise and satire.
Mikati's words sparked a debate between him and representatives of the Free Patriotic Movement, with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri intervening to stop the verbal spat between the two sides.
Mikati pointed out, “Some people are trying to divert attention from their direct responsibility and the responsibility of the representatives to elect the President, accusing the government and me personally, confiscating and subverting the powers of His Excellency the President. Constitution, and this is something that cannot be tolerated, especially in every session of the Council of Ministers I insist on the necessity of electing a new President.
He explained that the conduct he was following in particular at this stage was “consistent with what has been determined by the highest constitutional authority of the land”. It is a Constituent Assembly,” asserting that “any argument to disrupt the Council of Ministers is weak.”
Asked by Deputy Speaker of Parliament Elias Bou Saab about the dispute between Mikati and Defense Minister Maurice Slim, Mikati said: “I took it, after appointing the Chief of Staff and sending him a letter. Initiative, and when necessary to send the necessary letters to the Ministers, I will continue to try; making them perform their duties; Any indifference bears the consequences of the prime minister and exposes the government and the entire government to accountability, adding: “In every crisis, we are accused of indifference, and demands are made to resolve issues, and when we do our duty, we are accused of attacking the powers of the President of the Republic.
Responding to accusations that he was siding with Hezbollah in the war and protecting it, Mikati said: “We have heard accusations against the government that it is handing over the country's decision-making power to political parties, and this accusation is completely untrue. Our firm and emphatic position focuses on adherence to all international resolutions and agreements, and we reiterate our demand for a ceasefire in Gaza. Because it is the mandatory entry point for all solutions.
Regarding the budget, Mikati admitted that it was “not ideal under normal circumstances, but it is a budget consistent with the economic, security, social and international conditions Lebanon is going through.”
“The 2019 budget was more than 17.2 billion dollars, while we managed the country with about 800 million dollars in 2022,” he recalled: “We managed to prevent the collapse and start a serious recovery, and we have on account. 36 Lebanese banks have more than 100 thousand billion pounds in cash. .We have over a billion dollars, including 150 million in cash.
To consolidate the exchange rate, he said, “there is a tendency to avoid previous large fluctuations, but there is no intention to stabilize the exchange rate, we have paid high prices as a result of being strongly linked to the United States. dollar.”
Mikati pointed out that the success in securing exchange rate stability starting in May 2023 was a result of a serious improvement in treasury revenue resulting from the adjustment of customs duties and taxes and others. Adopting realistic and scientific rules in preparing the 2023 and 2024 budgets.”
He believed that “the great attack on taxes and tariffs is more populist and profiteering, because there is no significant increase in taxes, and the revision of tariffs does not carry the burden that some representatives talk about.” Alcohol, smoking, and sugary foods have a social and health target, and these substances have known comorbidities and significant health costs.”