Lebanon News

Neither aid nor McKinsey will end graft, problems: Jumblatt

Walid Jumblatt attends a ceremony in Beirut, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party head Walid Jumblatt said Wednesday he had not yet formed any electoral alliances and would not agree to proposals of a five-party coalition if it came at the expense of a major party during a wide-ranging TV interview. Although Jumblatt didn’t name the party in question, there has been talk of a five-way alliance in the Parliamentary election scheduled for May that would bring together the PSP, the Future Movement, Hezbollah, Amal and the Free Patriotic Movement, excluding the Lebanese Forces. In a recent speech, Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah also ruled out such an arrangement.

The new electoral law agreed last year, Jumblatt said, might mean his party receives only eight or nine seats rather than the 11 they currently hold. “There are new considerations with the new law,” he said.

Speaking to Paula Yacoubian on Future TV, Jumblatt said the climate in the country had been “great,” until a decree promoting Lebanese Army officers who served under President Michel Aoun when he was Army commander in the late 1980s caused a now-major dispute between Speaker Nabih Berri and Aoun. “The atmosphere became tense after the decree saga, we went back to focusing on internal differences,” he said.

Jumblatt insisted the biggest issue today was the electricity crisis, and said the government must come together to solve that one provision. “I’m not nagging,” he said when Yacoubian tried to change the topic.

Throughout the interview, Jumblatt continually referenced a “descending timer,” when talking of Lebanon’s national debt, estimated at over $80 billion, and said the electricity crisis was a prime contributor that cost the state Treasury around $30 billion over the past few years.

Commenting on his son Taymour, who is expected to take the helm of the party in upcoming parliamentary elections, Jumblatt said he had been preparing his son through his “political experience,” but that Taymour could speak for himself.

Jumblatt said he was interested in renewing the blood of the PSP, to which Yacoubian interjected that he had only changed the face.

“I [replaced] myself. Taymour is not Walid Jumblatt, and I’m not him,” he replied.

Asked about his relations with the United States, Jumblatt replied: “With the new administration? Did you see the new book? He’s crazy ... [U.S President Donald] Trump is against his people, he removed insurance from 40 million of them.”

Jumblatt also said, “our great friend America is responsible for the Iranian expansion in the region.”

Asked about the news that U.S.-based consultancy firm McKinsey and Co. was hired Wednesday by the Lebanese government to advise on restructuring the country’s ailing economy, he said “do we need McKinsey? Those who brought McKinsey are donkeys ... Are there no competent Lebanese experts or economists? We are not the 4th world.”

“The view that Lebanon’s economy consists of tourism and services has failed because these services only impact one area: Beirut – we don’t give enough to agriculture and industry,” he added.

Jumblatt said he stuck to his “old socialist,” views. “It is better to belong to the old socialist schools [of thought] than to belong to the new imperialist schools, which usher in privatization everywhere,” he said.

Jumblatt said three international donor conferences for Lebanon’s Army, infrastructure and to support refugees set for spring this year would not solve the country’s problems, “If we did not treat our internal cancer: corruption and mismanagement.”

Jumblatt said he had refused an invitation to Saudi Arabia last year to form a new political axis with Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Kataeb head Sami Gemayel and LF head Samir Geagea but he refused because he “did not want to be exclusionary.”

Jumblatt urged a change in aged political class. “This system will not protect democracy, and nor will McKinsey,” he said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 11, 2018, on page 2.

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