BEIRUT: Head of the Future bloc MP Fouad Siniora Wednesday was pessimistic about convening a Parliament session to approve the wage hike bill, saying discussions were ongoing with the various blocs to reach an agreement on disputed items in the draft law.
“There isn't possibility that Thursday's session will see the approval of the salary scale," Sinora told reporters after a lengthy meeting with Speaker Nabih Berri attended by a number of lawmakers from Parliament's various blocs.
"We will deliberate further tonight ... we are committed to passing the salary scale but on the basis of equality and a decrease in expenditures.
The meeting at Berri's office in Parliament began shortly after lawmakers failed for the seventh time to secure quorum to elect a new president for Lebanon.
So far, rival political parties have not yet reached a deal on the wage hike, particularly the Future Movement and MPs from the Hezbollah-led March 8 coalition on the issue of balancing revenues and expenditure, political sources said.
The sources told The Daily Star if Berri and Siniora were to agree on the main points of contention in the pay hike, then a quorum would be secured for Thursday’s session and the draft law would be passed.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said progress was made during the meeting but further talks were needed to finalize the bill.
Speaking to reporters after the end of the meeting, Khalil said lawmakers were nearly close to finding a balance between expenditures and revenues in order to finance the wage hike without crippling the economy.
Change and Reform bloc MP Ibrahim Kanaan said lawmakers should put to a vote disputed items given that most of the draft bill was almost ready.
He said MPs who attended the meeting chaired by Berri agreed to give teachers a raise in line with the addition of six degrees on every teacher’s rank and a boost in salaries for military personnel.
The Union Coordination Committee kept up the pressure on lawmakers Wednesday, holding a sit-in outside the Civil Service Council in Verdun ahead of the electoral session scheduled for noon in Parliament.
“We won’t accept any tax hike; let them collect money from marine property first,” UCC head Hanna Gharib told the rally. "Three years are enough. We want our rights. That's all we're asking for."