On November 27th, the government managed to pass the 2020 budget despite the best efforts of the protesters to block the MPs from reaching parliament.
It was then signed on by Prime Minister Hassan Diab with a reduction of $700 million on February 3rd and was passed to President Michel Aoun’s desk for his approval.
President Aoun declared on February 16th that he will not sign the bill because it “does not include a final account for the year 2018,” his adviser Minister Salim Jreissati said to MTV. “This is considered a violation and the President rejects it,” he added.
However, he noted, “The President will wait for the one-month deadline to expire and the budget will automatically enter into force without him granting it his signature, in line with Article 57 of the Constitution.”
There is speculation that the reason for the presidential rejection of the bill could be related to its association with Saad Hariri and the recent feud between the FPM and the Future movement.
Aoun and several of his associates, most notably Gebran Bassil, were not invited to the commemoration of Saad al-Hariri’s father Rafik al-Hariri’s death.
During the commemoration, Saad Hariri had declared the end of the political settlement between his Future Movement and the FPM of Aoun, a settlement that had led to the election of Michel Aoun as President.
The bill was also controversial for other reasons, due to its unrealistic goals. According to the finance committee, the bill’s predicted revenues are unrealistic because it “envisages a deficit of around 7% of GD, wider than the originally hoped-for 0.6%,” according to MP Ibrahim Kanaan to Reuters.
Chief economist at Byblos Bank Nassib Ghobril, also commented on the budget at the time saying, “With all the changes and the impact on the economy, I think it would have been more appropriate if the new government had withdrawn the budget and made revisions to it on revenues and expenditures.”