BEIRUT: Health Minister Wael Abu Faour announced Saturday that a meeting between the Amal and Future movements’ representatives to discuss the thorny issue of public finances will take place in the next few days.
“We are back on the positive track and there will be a new meeting in the next couple of days joining me, the head of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s office Nader Hariri and the Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil,” Abu Faour said in a TV interview.
He described Thursday’s meeting between Amal and Future as “very good,” saying that the two parties explained their positions in a constructive discussion.
“The media dispute that occurred yesterday between the two parties is marginal, and it was fixed,” Abu Faour said. “It will not change the positivity that the discussions have witnessed.”
Future MPs accused Khalil in a news conference Friday of breaking the law, blaming him for the deadlock in paying public sector employees and arguing that the treasury had the necessary funds.
MP Jamal Jarrah accused him of having implicit intentions behind insisting that the Parliament approves the spending required to pay the public employees’ wages, especially that previous government had dealt with the matter without the need for a parliamentary legislation.
Khalil has refused to authorize extra-budgetary spending for civil servants unless the draft state budget for 2014 he prepared was approved. His decision raised fears that public sector employees would not be paid at the end of the month.
Due to the fact that no state budget has been approved since 2005, Cabinets are obligated by law to adhere to the financial ceiling of the last approved budget. Former Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government resolved the issue by approving extra-budgetary spending of LL8.9 trillion (nearly $6 billion) for 2011.
The Cabinets of Fouad Siniora resorted to taking a similar measure between 2006 and 2009, spending around $11 billion more than the budget officially allowed.
Advocating that the current Cabinet adopts a similar arrangement, Future MP Ghazi Youssef said that “the failure to pay salaries is solely the responsibility of the minister because the funds are supposed to be there."
Khalil hit back at the Future lawmakers, saying MPs should head to Parliament to vote on a law and resolve the public sector salary issue, stressing that the news conference would not change his mind.