Private sector calls for economic rescue plan, rejects public wage hike

FILE - Nehme Mahfoud, head of the Private Schools Teachers Association speaks during a teachers' protest that was part of a general strike by civil servants outside the Grand Serail in Downtown Beirut, Wednesday, July 25, 2012. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Businessmen Association reiterated calls for an economic rescue plan, and rejected any attempt by the government to raise the salaries of the public sector employees substantially.

“We understand the Union Coordination Committee desire to raise [public sector employees’] income as global and local inflation increases and living costs soar,” a post-meeting statement by the LBA said.

“But we are completely against [the draft law] and the solutions being put forward which will result in exactly the opposite of what public employees want,” the statement added.

Arguing the raise would stall economic growth, the LBA said that such a step would put Lebanon’s economic policy in contradiction with global trends of cutting budget expenditures and deficit as the financial crisis takes its toll on economies.

Fouad Zumkol, head of the association, called on the government to dismiss some of the staff in public departments who do not report to work but nevertheless collect their salaries at the end of the month.

“The government also needs to assess the economic impact of the salary scale not only in the short and medium term but in the long one as well,” he added.

Meanwhile, a delegation from the UCC met with the head of the Kataeb party Amin Gemayel.

Following the meeting, Nehme Mahfoud, head of the Private Teachers Association, told reporters that Gemayel expressed support for the UCC demands.

According to Mahfoud, Gemayel said that funds to increase salaries for public sector employees should be introduced after the authorities cut waste in government agencies and improve tax collection.

“All political parties should press the government to cut squandering and end tax evasion at the port, real estate and illegally occupied seaside estates,” Mahfoud said, quoting Gemayel.

Mahfoud added that increasing public wages was not the reason for economic decline. “Bad economic policies, squandering and corruption are driving the economy to collapse.”

Air traffic controllers at the Rafik Hariri International Airport also joined calls for increasing salaries.

They urged the government to include them in any salary raise agreement they reach in the future.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 13, 2012, on page 4.




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