Lebanese members of parliament attend a general parliament discussion in downtown Beirut, Lebanon October 17, 2017. Image Credit: Reuters

Beirut: Lebanon’s parliament on Thursday approved a government budget for the first time since 2005, the country’s ANI news agency reported.

For 12 years, political crises and wars have forced Lebanon’s state institutions to operate without a budget, an economic aberration that has angered many Lebanese.

But after three days of debate, lawmakers on Thursday passed the budget - for the current financial year, not for 2018.

Prime Minister Saad Hariri, who called the vote “historic”, said the 2018 budget could be discussed as early as next week.

ANI did not provide total figures for income or expenditure.

Some lawmakers criticised the approval of amounts already spent, describing the debate prior to the vote as a “masquerade” and an attempt to hide financial wrongdoing in a country where corruption is commonplace.

The 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, widely blamed on the Syrian regime, plunged Lebanon into turmoil, dividing the country between supporters and enemies of Damascus.

Repeated crises, notably a 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, followed by the 2011 outbreak of civil war in neighbouring Syria, further deepened divides and paralysed the government.

Civil society groups have described Lebanon’s parliament itself as illegitimate, as it has extended its own mandate twice since the last legislative elections held in 2009.

Since its devastating 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has been weighed down with endemic corruption and a national debt estimated at 140 per cent of GDP.