BEIRUT: MP Walid Jumblatt proposed several ways to finance the public sector salary scale, including cutting down ministers' wages, in his weekly statement to Al-Anbaa newspaper.
“It is very important to secure financial revenues needed for the salary scale ... by controlling smuggling at the port, the airport and other exits because it could increase the income of the treasury as well as raising taxes on maritime properties and imposing taxes on real estate sale and exchange,” Jumblatt said in his weekly statement to Al-Anbaa newspaper.
He added that approving the wage hike without a proper study could negatively affect the economy.
His remarks came as the open-ended strike by civil servants and teachers entered its fourth week, coupled with daily protests outside government offices in response to the government’s failure to finalize a new salary scale for the public sector.
The protesters are demanding that the pay raise agreed to by the government last year be referred to Parliament for final approval but Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said he needs more time to look for means to finance the new salaries, which are expected to cost the treasury some $1.2 billion a year.
The private sector has also rallied against the approval of the wage hike, saying that the additional costs on the revenue would burden the economy, already feeling the pressure of the country’s strained economic situation.
Jumblatt also suggested that the government could study new taxes on bank interest rates and “cut down the salaries of ministers and some of the benefits they receive such as free travel.”
The head of the Progressive Socialist Party, who has three ministers in the current Cabinet, also noted that there was a discrepancy between wages within the public sector that he said should be corrected.
He called for a comprehensive, integrated study that could look into all the possibilities and reform the sector.
“Although the demands of the various sectors in public administration, education and the retired are just, randomly approving the salary scale without full preparation could create negative repercussions on many levels and will turn it into false promises,” he said.
President Michel Sleiman has pledged to push forward salary increases and refer the new wage scale to Parliament in the first Cabinet session after March 21.