Lebanese Lawmakers Worry Deficit Could Be Far Higher Than Planned
Anti-government protesters in Beirut pelted police with rocks and debris on Monday as Lebanon’s parliament debated budgetary issues for the deeply indebted Eastern Mediterranean country. A key lawmaker who oversees financial affairs told colleagues that under a budget presented by the previous government – which quit after weeks of protests by citizens unhappy with new taxes and proposed austerity measures – the projected deficit would be far greater than planned. Newly installed Prime Minister Hassan Diab has said he would be willing to adopt the budget proposed by the government of his predecessor, Saad al-Hariri. But protesters remain unbowed, saying that only a clean sweep of governing elites and a long-standing system of sectarian rules concerning who gets to govern will help solve rampant mismanagement and corruption, ills they blame for Lebanon’s estimated foreign debt of $86 billion, said to be the world’s third-highest in terms of GDP.