Lebanon’s Prime Minister Sa’ad Hariri ridiculed suggestions that his debt-laden country should seek a bailout from the International Monetary Fund, as frustration mounts over months of political bickering that have stalled efforts to cut spending and unlock billions of dollars in aid.
“You have some who say that maybe we should now get into an IMF road map, thinking that the IMF will come and throw in some 30 billion. Lebanon’s share in the IMF is this much,” Hariri said, pinching two fingers together to indicate a minuscule amount. “This much. This much. What are you talking about?”
During a press conference, Hariri criticised constant political bickering that has delayed efforts to pass an austerity budget for 2019. The draft budget was approved by the government after exhaustive discussions and is now being debated in parliament, where plans to freeze public sector recruitment and other such measures will prove unpopular.
The budget sets a deficit target of 7.6 per cent of gross domestic product for 2019, something Lebanon needs to achieve to unlock billions of dollars in international aid and revive its ailing economy.
The premier said Lebanon’s economic situation was dire and international investors and donors would not wait forever for the country to prove it is serious about reform.
Ministers who agreed to the budget are now objecting to some items during parliament discussions, Hariri said. “What? Are you fooling people?”