An international group formed to promote Lebanon’s sovereignty and the stability of its state institutions has commended the country for passing the 2019 state budget, which it called an “urgently needed first step” toward repairing the country’s economy.
The International Support Group brings together the United Nations, the European Union, the Arab League and the individual governments of China, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
It was launched in 2013 by the U.N. secretary-general at the time in coordination with former President Michel Sleiman with the specific goal of drumming up support for the Lebanese Army and communities affected by the refugee crisis.
In a written statement, the group said it “commends the sacrifices which the Lebanese people are making in order to set the country on the path towards economic growth.”
Parliament’s general assembly approved the document Friday, with a majority of 83 MPs voting in favor after 4 days of discussion.
The budget seeks to reduce Lebanon’s deficit-to-GDP ratio to 7 percent or less, down from more than 11 percent in 2018. Making a reduction to this ratio by 1 percent every year over five years was one of the key pledges made by Lebanon at the 2018 CEDRE donor conference in return for more than $11 billion in soft loans and grants from the international community.
The ISG also praised the adoption of the Energy Ministry’s long-awaited electricity plan. The plan aims to boost power production and reduce the financial losses incurred by the state-run electricity provider.
At the same time, the statement stressed the need for the government to address other pressing matters, such as implementing anti-corruption and transparency measures.
Further fiscal reform, it said, “can improve governance, create a favorable business climate … and signal to the Lebanese people and the international markets Lebanon’s commitment to achieving sustainable economic stability and growth.”
The Daily Star