Draft budget forecasts deficit equivalent to 31% of expenditures for 2021

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Byblos Bank

Lebanon This Week 667


Draft budget forecasts deficit equivalent to 31% of expenditures for 2021

The draft budget for 2021 that the Ministry of Finance submitted to the Council of Ministers shows budget expenditures at LBP19,759bn or $13.1bn and revenues at LBP13,572bn or $9bn, leading to a budget deficit of LBP6,187bn or $4.1bn, which would be equivalent to 31.3% of expenditures. The dollar figures are converted at the official exchange rate of the Lebanese pound against the US dollar, as the ministry prepared the budget based on the official rate of the national currency. The ministry did not provide the macroeconomic indicators and assumptions that it used in the draft budget, such as real GDP growth, the inflation rate, and nominal GDP. 

The breakdown of budgetary spending for 2021, excluding Treasury outlays, shows that current expenditures amount to LBP19,024bn ($12.6bn), equivalent to 96.3% of such spending. Also, capital spending, which includes investing in infrastructure, land expropriation and the purchase of equipment, reaches LBP735bn ($488m), or 3.7% of total outlays in 2021. The compensation of public-sector personnel, which covers salaries, wages and related benefits, as well as retirement, end-of-service indemnities, and transfers to public institutions to cover salaries, amounts to LBP10,444bn, or $6.9bn, and represents 53% of total budget spending in 2021. It is followed by interest payments on debt denominated in Lebanese pounds and on multilateral and bilateral debt at LBP3,106bn, or $2.1bn (15.7% of total budget spending), and Transfers to Electricité du Liban (EdL) at LBP1,500bn, or $1bn (7.6% of total budget spending). 

On the revenues side, the 2021 draft budget forecast tax receipts at LBP10,493bn ($7bn), compared to LBP9,966bn ($6.6bn) in the 2020 budget law. The ministry estimates receipts from the tax on income, profits & capital gains would generate 47% of total tax revenues, followed by revenues from the value-added tax and the excise tax on goods & services (36%), income from property taxes (8.8%), and receipts from custom duties (4.5%), while other taxes would generate the remaining 3.9%. Also, the draft budget projects non-tax revenues at LBP3,080bn ($2bn) relative to LBP3,430bn ($2.3bn) in the 2020 budget. 

The 2021 draft budget includes random tax and non-tax measures that are not part of any medium-term fiscal framework or a plan to address the crises that Lebanon is facing. For instance, it imposes a one-time "solidarity" tax of up to 2% on deposits of $1m or LBP1,500m or higher, citing the "need for revenues". It also imposes a 30% surplus tax on all interest rates that exceed 3% on deposits, Treasury bills, Certificates of Deposits, interbank deposits, and interest income on assets management, among others. Revenues from interest rates on these instruments are already subject to a 10% tax. Further, it exempted "fresh dollar" deposits from the tax on interest rates for three years to encourage the inflows of such deposits, while it suggested that Lebanon extends residency to any foreigner who buys real estate in the district of Beirut for a minimum of $350,000 in "fresh dollars" or in any other district for a minimum of $200,000. In addition, it plans to increase the limit on the deposit guarantees from LBP75m currently to LBP300m on existing deposits in all currencies, and sets at $50,000 the deposit guarantees on "fresh accounts" in US dollars or in any other foreign currency. In addition, it intends to gradually increase electricity tariffs in order to help eliminate the financial losses at Electricité du Liban. Further, it exempts technology startups from paying the income tax for 2021, 2022 and 2023, while it exempts new projects in tourism and industry from paying 75% of the income tax in 2021, 2022 and 2023, provided that at least 80% of the employees in these projects are Lebanese citizens. Also, it provides new industrial and commercial companies a 10-year exemption on paying income tax, provided that they are established in regions that the government intends to develop, that their capital is $5m or more, and that 85% of their workforce consists of Lebanese citizens. Moreover, it exempts the remuneration that employees receive from layoffs or resignations from the tax on wages and salaries and allows companies to consider these remunerations as deductibles from the company's revenues.