May 14, 2019 / 2:50 PM / 11 days ago

UPDATE 1-Lebanon cabinet to agree 2019 state draft budget by Wednesday

(Adds minister comments to Reuters, background, context)

BEIRUT, May 14 (Reuters) - Lebanon’s coalition government aims to agree the draft 2019 state budget by Wednesday night, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters on Tuesday, as it tries to tame a gaping fiscal deficit.

“There is a direction to achieve the budget and approve it tomorrow in a session before noon and a session at night,” said Ali Hassan Khalil.

“We are on the right path and we are moving towards a positive result,” he added.

The government is seeking to finalise a budget that Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri says may be the most austere in Lebanese history to address one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens, equivalent to about 150% of GDP.

Reports in the Lebanese media that the budget would include cuts to the state wage bill have prompted several strikes and protests by public sector workers, pointing to the difficulties Hariri faces in pushing through reforms.

The cabinet has met almost daily to discuss the draft budget since the start of the month. After it is agreed by the cabinet, the budget must be discussed and approved by the parliament.

Reporting by Ellen Francis and Laila Bassam; Writing by Angus McDowall; Editing by Alison Williams

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