Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri's opponents are teaming up to oppose his 2003 budget, the local Daily Star reported on 7 January. Speaker Nabih Berri and progressive Socialist Party leader and Chouf MP Walid Jumblatt announced that their blocs would team up following discussions on 6 January. Hariri is insistent that the stringent budget is necessary to consolidate the success of the Paris II donors conference and make progress is reducing the crippling public debt of more than 170 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). However, Jumblatt has said that he will vote against the budget if it is not amended to remove certain tax and fee rises. Those imposed on teachers and pensioners have come in for particular attack. The General Labour Confederation has said that it will strike if changes are not forthcoming, complaining that low-income groups of workers are being unfairly hit. Hariri presented his ambitious budget to parliament in august 2002, aiming at a cut in spending and rise in revenues through a 15 per cent increase in the tax receipt (MEED 30:8:02
Figures released by Banque du Liban (central bank) on 7 December show that Lebanon's public debt rose to £Leb 45.1 trillion ($29.92 billion) at the end of October 2002, up from £Leb 44.5 trillion at the same point in 2001, a rise of 12.9 per cent. Net domestic debt made up 57.4 per cent of the total, at £Leb 25.8 trillion ($17.19 million).