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Exclusive: Lebanese draft budget reduces deficit to below 9 percent of GDP - finance minister

 Exclusive: Lebanese draft budget reduces deficit to below 9 percent of GDP - finance minister

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Lebanon's draft budget for 2019 projects a deficit of less than 9 percent of GDP compared to 11.2 percent in 2018 and includes "wide reductions" in spending based on the need for "exceptional austerity measures", the finance minister said.

The budget, seen as a critical test of the heavily indebted state's determination to reform, is based on an economic growth forecast of 1.5 percent in 2019, which could rise to around 2 percent as the economy picks up, Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters.

The draft budget projects a primary surplus compared to a deficit in 2018, he added.

"The most important thing is that we have put ourselves on the path of dealing with the accumulated deficit," Khalil said. The draft represented an "introduction to more deficit reductions in the 2020 and 2021 budgets," he said.

(Reporting by Laila Bassam and Tom Perry; Editing by Toby Chopra)

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2019 00:07:40 IST