Lebanon Cabinet defers final budget meeting

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri

BEIRUT — Lebanon's Cabinet delayed until Friday its last session on the 2019 draft budget, a minister said, pushing back a critical meeting to finalize plans for cutting the deficit.

Lebanon has one of the heaviest public debt burdens in the world, and long-stalled reforms are seen as more pressing than ever after years of low economic growth.

President Michel Aoun, in a speech late on Tuesday, urged the Lebanese to end protests and make sacrifices to rescue the country from economic and financial crisis.

Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri has said this may be the most austere budget in Lebanon's history.

Ministers who convened on Wednesday afternoon had been due to meet again at night to agree the budget before sending it to parliament for approval.

"There will be no second session tonight," Health Minister Jamil Jabak told reporters at the Grand Serail, the government headquarters in Beirut.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for speeding up efforts to complete the budget, lawmakers from his Amal Party cited him as saying after a meeting.

Fears that the budget will include wage or pension cuts have sparked protests by public sector workers and retired soldiers. — Reuters