BEIRUT: Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri will present a new idea to break the political deadlock crippling the country during a speech Friday, according to a Future Movement official.
“Former Prime Minister Hariri will make a new proposal to resolve the political impasse,” said Abdel-Ghani Kabbara, Hariri’s adviser for north Lebanon affairs.
Speaking to The Daily Star Wednesday, Kabbara described Hariri’s speech as “important” but would give no further details.
Kabbara was part of a Future Movement delegation that visited Hariri in Saudi Arabia this week.
Hariri will make his address during an iftar banquet hosted by the Future Movement.
Lebanon has been without a president since May 25, with the presidential vacuum almost totally paralyzing Parliament and government.
Meanwhile, the debate over extra-budgetary spending continues, with Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil responding to the Future bloc’s stance by saying it had blocked dialogue over the issue.
Khalil said earlier this month that he would not authorize extra-budgetary spending without a law passed by Parliament, raising fears that the salaries of public sector employees would not be paid at the end of July in the absence of the legislation.
The Future bloc said Tuesday that the payment of salaries was the responsibility of Khalil and did not require a Parliamentary law but only government authorization in line with the General Accounting Law. This method was adopted by all governments since 2005, the last year Parliament endorsed a budget.
“I frankly say that we are fully committed to the implementation of rules and laws and the finance minister is responsible for keeping spending within the legal frame,” Khalil told a local TV station.
He said the General Accounting Law did not allow the government to authorize extra-budgetary spending except for the purpose of paying end-of-service indemnities.
Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt told a local TV station that the payment of salaries should happen the same way as it did since 2005, when a Parliament session allowed the government to issue Eurobonds to finance the state’s costs.
Ministerial sources told The Daily Star that Prime Minister Tammam Salam would not make any decision on extra-budgetary spending pending the outcome of ongoing contacts between heads of blocs over the agenda of a possible Parliament session and whether the issue would be one of its items.
The sources, however, said a possible way out of the problem would be for Khalil to go on vacation on Eid al-Fitr, which falls at the end of the month. This would make Economy Minister Alain Hakim the acting finance minister, who would sign the decree to pay the salaries.While the Future bloc has voiced its readiness to attend a Parliament session to authorize the issuance of Eurobonds, it opposes placing a long-awaited salary raise for the public sector on the agenda before sources to finance the hike are totally secured.
In a bid to pressure the legislature to pass the wage hike, teachers are boycotting the marking of official exams.
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab warned that students would not meet the deadline for university admissions if teachers continued their boycott.
“If correction of official exams does not start four days from today, students wanting to join university will face delayed entry,” Bou Saab said. He also warned that the fate of the upcoming academic year hung in the balance. “The only way out of this crisis is through the approval of the salary raise.”
Grade 12 students need to pass official exams in order to enroll at university, while Grade 9 students also have to pass official tests to join high school.
During a protest near the Education Ministry pressing Parliament to pass the wage hike. Union Coordination Committee head Hanna Gharib threatened that more than 40,000 students who took official exams might join UCC protests “if officials don’t give us our rights in four to five days.”
Grade 12 students held a sit-in Wednesday at the ministry to demand the correction of their official exams.
Separately, Jumblatt denied media reports that his party was willing to withdraw its candidate, MP Henry Helou, from the presidency race, saying in a statement that the lawmaker represented much-needed moderation in the face of existing political divisions.
Also Wednesday, Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai discussed the presidential deadlock and regional developments with Marada Movement leader MP Sleiman Frangieh at the prelate’s summer residence in Diman.