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Thu 18 Apr 2019 10:41 AM

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Lebanon's PM Hariri warns of unprecedented austerity in 2019

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the country would be heading to an economic catastrophe if the government fails to implement harsh reform measures in this year's spending plan.

Lebanon's PM Hariri warns of unprecedented austerity in 2019
Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri said the new measures would not target the poor but are needed to offset public-sector wage rises and benefits the government approved in 2017.

Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri warned that the country’s economy is at risk of collapsing and pledged to enact the toughest belt-tightening measures the nation has ever known.

“What’s asked of us as a government is to have a budget that will see the most austerity in Lebanon’s history,” Hariri told reporters at parliament in Beirut.

The premier said the country would be heading to an economic catastrophe if the government fails to implement harsh reform measures in this year’s spending plan.

Tensions are building in Lebanon as officials discuss ways to reduce spending and the deficit in line with their commitment to international donors, who pledged $11 billion to help overhaul the country’s ailing economy.

Hariri spoke hours after some public sector workers went on strike over rumours their wages and severance packages would be cut to pare government spending.

Earlier this month, the government approved a power sector reform plan designed to save millions of dollars a year. The program also includes a gradual decrease in costly subsidies. The government has also vowed to fight endemic corruption and place its debt, among the world’s highest, on a downward trajectory.

Hariri said the new measures would not target the poor but are needed to offset public-sector wage rises and benefits the government approved in 2017.

"We should be honest with the citizens,” he said, “and tell them that if we continue like that, we will reach a disaster."