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Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to be here with you today for the closing of the twinning between the Lebanese Ministry of Finance and the Ministries of Finance of France and Italy. Funded by the European Union with 2.8 million euros, this twinning has been going on for a period of three years, which makes it the longest and biggest twinning ever financed by the European Union in Lebanon.
The results are noteworthy. Thanks to this twinning project, Lebanon now has the groundwork done to define a strategy for a reform of public finance management. Thanks to this project, considerable progress has been made for the forecasting of economic growth and revenues; internal control has been improved; and an important step has been taken to align the accounting standards of the Ministry with international standards. Finally, the project gave us a good overview of the training needs of the staff of the Ministry.
The numerous components of the twinning have in fact allowed the identification of areas of intervention where progress could be achieved with the assistance of technical teams from EU Member States. So all in all, the project has strengthened the cooperation between Lebanon and Europe in public finance management.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
A Ministry of Finance without a national budget is not a common situation, but this has been the case for Lebanon since 2006. Not surprisingly, in the absence of a budget, the staff of the Ministry is facing major difficulties in managing public finance. I would like to express my admiration and encouragement to the staff of the Ministry who, under the guidance of H.E. the Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil and the Director General of the Ministry Alain Bifani, have made a huge effort to perform their tasks under such difficult conditions. We acknowledge the fact that, year after year, the Ministry of Finance has indeed continued to respect the budget cycle despite all difficulties and has insisted on providing the successive governments with draft budget laws within the constitutional timeframe.
On this background, I would like to highlight the efforts made by H.E. Minister Khalil during the last weeks to have a budget adopted by the government. We hope that these efforts will prove successful! I would also like to mention the considerable efforts exerted by this Ministry to clarify the accounts of the Lebanese State as a prelude to the adoption of the budget at Parliament level.
The excellent cooperation between the staff of the Ministry and the European experts, as well as the many achievements of this twinning project, encourage us to consider continuing to support the Ministry. This will, of course, depend to a large extent on the willingness to make public finance management more efficient and transparent. As we have mentioned on many occasions, adopting a national budget would be one major step that would enable us to strengthen our cooperation even further, as we could consider providing budget support to Lebanon as we do with many other countries.
I look forward to a continued partnership between the European Union, the Ministry of Finance and the EU Member States, and to more successful results in the future.