Here are the top stories for Lebanon today:
The first phase of the project of expanding Beirut Airport was launched on Monday, the National News Agency reported.”We aim at providing the Lebanese and tourists with facilities that allow passengers to complete their travel procedures in an effective way,” Public Works and Transport Minister Youssef Fenianos told reporters at the airport. A fast track will be installed for the airport during the summer, he said.
Lebanon’s 2019 draft budget plan to tackle its pressing fiscal situation through spending cuts, revenue increases and refinancing of T-bills will likely fail to deliver a significant shift in the country’s debt trajectory, ratings agency Moody’s said.
Heavily indebted Lebanon unveiled a plan to bring its public finances under control in late May but faces an uphill struggle to restore the investor confidence that is needed to stave off crisis. The budget — which has been sent to parliament for debate and approval — aims to cut the fiscal deficit to 7.6% of GDP from 11.5% in 2018 and implies the primary balance will turn into a surplus of 1.7% from a deficit of around 1% of GDP.
Will Iran finally release Nizar Zakka?
The lawyer for a Lebanese man held in Iran since 2015 said Monday that his client will be released in the “next few days.” Majed Dimashkiyeh told The Associated Press that Nizar Zakka’s expected release comes after mediations by top Lebanese officials, including President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Saad Hariri. Aoun is a close ally of Hezbollah, a powerful Iranian-backed Lebanese group. Some Iranian media outlets reported earlier Monday that Zakka would be released soon without giving further details. Zakka, a Lebanese businessman and information technology expert was the leader of the Arab ICT Organization, or IJMA3, an industry consortium from 13 countries that advocates for information technology in the region. Zakka disappeared Sept. 18, 2015, during his fifth trip to Iran. He had been invited to attend a conference at which President Hassan Rouhani spoke of providing more economic opportunities for women and sustainable development.