BEIRUT

Lebanon News

Fate of Cabinet session hangs in the balance

Prime Minister Tammam Salam arrives at the Parliament in Beirut, Thursday, March 20, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mohammad Azakir)

BEIRUT: Officials have so far failed to resolve disputes over the Lebanese University decree, leaving the fate of a future Cabinet session hanging in the balance, ministerial sources said Wednesday.

Recent contacts between a number of ministers and Prime Minister Tammam Salam failed to yield an agreement on the LU decree that would pave the way for the prime minister to call for a Cabinet session on the issue.

The decree would resolve two vital points – the appointment of deans to the university council and the hiring of contract professors as full-timers, a longtime demand by LU lecturers.

While Progressive Socialist Party ministers insist on having the dean of the Medical College, Pierre Yared, remain in his post, the Kataeb party has upheld its demand for a share in the university council particularly and have nominated one of their own as a commissioner.

The prime minister informed ministers that he would not call for a Cabinet session until a comprehensive agreement on the education dossier is reached that would allow the Cabinet to pass the LU decree in its first session, the sources told The Daily Star.

The Cabinet had initially approved giving full-time status to the LU contract professors, but several ministers refused to finalize the professors’ status without approving the appointment of new deans at the university, saying it should be a package deal.

According to a new governing mechanism in light of a presidential void, any decree requires the approval of all 24 ministers.

In terms of the equally divisive subject of extra-budgetary spending, the prime minister will not make any decision until the outcome of ongoing contacts between heads of political groups emerges over the possibility of convening a legislative session to pass an urgent law, the sources said.

Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil, who held talks with Salam earlier in the day, has refused to authorize extra-budgetary spending for ministers unless the draft state budget for 2014 he prepared is approved or passed via a Parliament law. Khalil’s decision had raised fears that the salaries of public sector employees would not be paid at the end of the month.

The sources, however, said there was a way out of the spending predicament.

“A possible exit that could be used to pay the public sector employees their salaries is that if Khalil goes on Eid vacation a few days before the end of Ramadan, Economy Minister Alain Hakim is the acting finance minister and could sign off on the salaries,” a source said.

Separately, the prime minister has not yet decided whether he will attend military celebrations on Army Day in August as a substitute for a president, given that the Constitution vests full executive powers as well as those of the president in the Cabinet in the event of a vacuum.

 

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Summary

Recent contacts between a number of ministers and Prime Minister Tammam Salam failed to yield an agreement on the LU decree that would pave the way for the prime minister to call for a Cabinet session on the issue.

While Progressive Socialist Party ministers insist on having the dean of the Medical College, Pierre Yared, remain in his post, the Kataeb party has upheld its demand for a share in the university council particularly and have nominated one of their own as a commissioner.

The prime minister informed ministers that he would not call for a Cabinet session until a comprehensive agreement on the education dossier is reached that would allow the Cabinet to pass the LU decree in its first session, the sources told The Daily Star.


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