Lebanon News

Parliament OKs treasury loan bill to cover money owed hospitals

BEIRUT: Parliament passed several draft laws during an exceptional session Monday, including allowing the government to issue treasury loans in local and U.S. currency and agreements to implement water projects in the country.

Parliament passed the draft law allowing the government to issue treasury loans in Lebanese pounds and dollars in order to pay LL120 billion it owes to private hospitals that accumulated between 2001 and 2011.

The draft law was amended after it initially covered payments up to 2010.

MPs also ratified a $ 200-million- loan agreement and another agreement to implement a project to channel the waters of the Awali River on the northern entrance to Sidon toward Beirut. The agreements are between the Lebanese Republic and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

When Metn MP Sami Gemayel asked for the names of districts which would benefit from the project, Energy Minister Gibran Bassil said that the project will provide 50 million cubed meters of water for Beirut its southern and eastern suburbs and will reach the northern suburbs. But Gemayel said he wants the names of these districts.

The session, which was postponed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri to 6 p.m., is set to run Monday and Tuesday and includes 33 draft laws, including the thorny draft law to cover government expenses for 2012.

The bill aims at allocating LL11.561 trillion ($7.67 billion) to cover public spending for 2012.

The Cabinet overcame its spending crisis last month when ministers approved advanced payments and treasury loans to cover public administration expenses and finance projects in Tripoli and Beirut.

The March 14 coalition has rejected extra-budgetary spending by Prime Minister Najib Mikati's Cabinet, arguing that overspending by previous governments should be legalized as well.

After the end of the session’s first half, Berri met with Prime Minister Najib Mikati, head of the Future Parliamentary bloc MP Fouad Siniora, Deputy Parliament Speaker Farid Makari and Lebanese Forces MP George Adwan to negotiate a settlement on the proposal.

Another contentious item on the agenda is the draft law to hire Electricite Du Liban contract workers as full-time employees.

MPs from the Change and Reform Parliamentary bloc reject the Parliament’s joint committees’ draft law approved last month allowing all EDL contract workers to take examinations that would give them the chance to become full-time employees.

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil had proposed allowing 700 out of the 2,800 workers into the selection round while the rest would be employed by private sector service providers for a three-month probation period.

Other proposals include a proposal to sign a loan agreement between Lebanon and the World Bank to finance the implementation of the second Educational Development project; and a draft proposal aimed at including notaries public in the civil service as well as draft laws call for settling the reconstruction of buildings devastated by the 2006 Israeli aggression on Lebanon.

The lawmakers will also be discussing an urgent draft law that calls for making contract teachers full-time employees at the Education Ministry.





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