Lebanon approves first government budget since 2005
Lebanon's parliament on Thursday approved a government budget for the first time since 2005, a crucial step towards reforming the fragile economy and preventing rising debt.
Lebanon's state institutions have operated without a budget for 12 years due to political crises and wars, an economic aberration that has angered Lebanese citizens.
Lawmakers passed the budget on Thursday after three days of debate, with Prime Minister Saad Hariri calling the vote "historic".
The budget will be for the current financial year, not for 2018, and could be discussed as early as next week, the country's ANI news agency reported.
Some lawmakers, however, criticised the approval of amounts already spent, describing the debate prior to the vote as a "masquerade" and an attempt to hide financial wrongdoing in a country where corruption is commonplace.
The 2005 assassination of former premier Rafik Hariri, widely blamed on the Syrian regime, plunged Lebanon into turmoil, dividing the country between supporters and enemies of Damascus.
Repeated crises, notably a 2006 war between Israel and Shia militant movement Hizballah, followed by the 2011 outbreak of civil war in neighbouring Syria, further deepened divides and paralysed the government.
Civil society groups have described Lebanon's parliament itself as illegitimate, as it has extended its own mandate twice since the last legislative elections held in 2009.
Since its devastating 1975-1990 civil war, Lebanon has been weighed down with endemic corruption and a national debt estimated at 140 percent of GDP.