Lebanon's Mikati says Syrian refugees could threaten 'balance'

Caretaker Prime Minister was speaking at a cabinet meeting in Beirut on Thursday

Lebanese caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned on Thursday that Syrian refugees could become a threat to the small Mediterranean nation’s delicate demographic and sectarian balance. AP
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Lebanon's caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati warned on Thursday that the thousands of Syrian citizens fleeing to the crisis-hit country each month could threaten its independence.

The constant influx of refugees “could create harsh imbalances that could affect Lebanon’s demographic balance”, Mr Mikati said at a day-long caretaker cabinet meeting in Beirut on Thursday.

The Lebanese army said it had prevented 1,200 Syrians from entering Lebanon in the past week.

During the session, ministers approved the replacement of Banque du Liban's Sayrafa exchange rate platform with a new system operated by financial group Bloomberg, a proposal initially introduced at the end of former central bank governor Riad Salameh's term in July.

The 2024 draft budget, which was presented by the Ministry of Finance last week, was also one of the 27 items of the agenda.

Several key components are included in the 2024 budget plan, including a proposed VAT increase from 11 per cent to 12 per cent, a reduced deficit of $480 million and an incremental salary boost for public servants.

The increase in pay is viewed as insufficient by many in the public sector amid rampant inflation.

“There is nothing new in terms of correcting, even partially, salaries, wages and compensations and not even an apology for not intending to return even a small part of our stolen rights,” the Public Administration Employees Union said.

The caretaker cabinet scheduled another session for Monday to deliberate on budget amendments that will then be submitted to the parliament for voting.

Budget approvals in Lebanon are rarely on time.

The draft budget for 2023, along with amendments endorsed by the cabinet, was forwarded to parliament on Monday.

The adoption of the 2023 budget was originally scheduled for completion by January 1, 2023, making it more than eight months overdue.

Updated: September 07, 2023, 4:19 PM