February 15, 2019 / 9:32 PM / 6 months ago

Lebanon parliament approves new government

FILE PHOTO: Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-HarirI is seen at a meeting in the governmental palace in Beirut, Lebanon, February 6, 2019. REUTERS/Aziz Taher/File Photo

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon’s parliament gave the new coalition government the green light to start working with a vote of confidence on Friday after a televised session to debate its proposed policies.

Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri has said the government will prioritise economic reforms needed to bring Lebanon’s massive public debt under control.

The government was agreed this month following wrangling over the make-up of the cabinet that had lasted since soon after a parliamentary election last May.

Most of the major parties represented in parliament have places in the cabinet, including those of President Michel Aoun, the Western-backed Hariri and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, as well as the Iran-backed Hezbollah group.

The reforms the government plans to pursue could be “difficult and painful”, but are required to avoid a worsening of economic, financial and social conditions, its statement of policy said.

The government has pledged a “financial correction” equal to at least one percent of GDP a year over five years, starting with this year’s budget.

This would be achieved by boosting revenues and cutting spending, starting with transfers to the state-run power company, which the World Bank has said represents a “staggering burden” on public finances.

Reporting by Angus McDowall; Editing by Chris Reese

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