He said during a meeting today at the Grand Serail with a delegation from Beirut traders, headed by Nicolas Chammas: Work is underway to ratify the budget as soon as possible. As for the issue of the salaries and ranks scale, it should not be a problem but a solution. The cabinet is discussing the scale calmly and positively.

Regarding the issue of tax increase, Premier Hariri said that nothing is final in this matter until now, and the issue is being studied carefully from its various aspects.

He added: We have to decide whether we want Lebanon to be a tax haven or not. The economic situation does not tolerate imposing high taxes and we want to give incentives to the private sector so it is able to develop and advance.

During the meeting, the traders tackled the issue of the budget and the necessity of ratifying it as soon as possible due to its direct and positive impact on the economic situation. On the subject of the salaries and ranks scale, they said that in case it is approved, it should be linked to a package of reforms, and the taxes should come in the framework of increasing the state’s revenues, stimulate the private sector and boost the economic situation as well.

The traders called on the government to take the necessary measures to prevent the Syrian refugees from competing with the Lebanese traders and workforce and to implement the Lebanese law in this regard.

After the meeting, Chammas said: “We told Premier Hariri that since the end of last year, there is an atmosphere of optimism. But unfortunately, since the beginning of this year, we notice that there is a retreat in the economic activity in general and the commercial activity in particular. We have been moving in a downward path since the start of the war in Syria, and the commercial sector lost between 35 to 40% of its activity and this is catastrophic.”

He added: “In light of this crisis, a package of painful taxes is being proposed, and if we look at the draft budget law, we notice that there are 40 pages dedicated to increases in taxation and fees while there is no mention of decreasing expenses. On the contrary, public expenditure will increase in the years 2016-2017 by 8%.”

He continued: “The state today needs funding and due to the deteriorating situation, economic depression and poverty, the state should decrease spending, stop squander, improve collection and strengthen the situation of Lebanese traders and employers in the face of the Syrian economic cycle.

We support the ratification of the budget because it is an essential tool of the economic policy and a tool of fiscal discipline. As for the salaries and ranks scale, he said: “We consider it a right, but on condition that it is accompanied by a package of reforms that should be studied in the parliament.”

He continued: “The third issue is the taxation issue. We are absolutely against it because it punishes the Lebanese institutions in the face of the Syrian ones. This represents an existential danger for the Lebanese employers and workers. We also called for motivational packages and cash flow in the consumer markets. At the same time, steps should be taken to address the financial situation of the institutions. Today, there is real poverty in the economic sense of the word and the government should support us to address this problem.”

He concluded: “We put our capabilities at the disposal of the Prime Minister to help end this crisis. We can find solutions if we act calmly.”

Hariri also received the Pakistani Ambassador to Lebanon Aftab Ahmed Khoker and discussed with him the bilateral relations.

Hariri also met with former Minister Jihad Azour, who will soon assume his new position as Director of the Middle East and Central Asia Department at the International Monetary Fund.

Source: National News Agency

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He said during a meeting today at the Grand Serail with a delegation from Beirut traders, headed by Nicolas Chammas: Work is underway to ratify the budget as soon as possible. As for the issue of the salaries and ranks scale, it should not be a problem but a...