Lebanon News

Cabinet to discuss proposal for civil servants’ salary increase

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, left, speaks with Youth and Sports Minister Faisal Karami during a Cabinet session at the Grand Serail in Beirut, Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2012. (The Daily Star/Dalati Nohra, HO)

BEIRUT: A draft law for salary increases for civil servants will top the agenda of this week’s Cabinet meeting, ministerial sources said Sunday.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati has said the draft law for salary hikes for government employees would be approved at the Cabinet session to be held at Baabda Palace Wednesday.

Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi said last month he would ask the Cabinet for $350 million to cover the salary increases of government employees this year.

Nearly 200,000 civil servants, Army and security personnel as well as retired government employees are entitled to the salary increase. Private sector employees have already received a salary hike as of February this year.

Public school teachers and many government employees have staged sit-ins and strikes in the past two months to press the Cabinet to adopt the new salary scale. The Union Coordination Committee, which groups public school teachers and public sector employees, has threatened escalatory measures, including an open strike if the government refuses to pass the salary scale before the end of 2012.

Other important items on the Cabinet agenda are a renewal of exclusivity of Lebanon’s flag carrier Middle East Airlines and accepting a gift of $700,000 from the Norwegian government and another gift of 672 tents and equipment donated by the Shelter Box Trust association to help thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the violence in their country to Lebanon, the sources said.

Lebanon granted MEA exclusive rights as the country’s sole commercial airline in 1969 in a bid to boost the company after an Israeli attack destroyed most of its fleet. The deal, originally set for 20 years, was extended on many occasions into 2012. It is set to expire mid-September.

Other items on the Cabinet agenda are a draft law relating to restricting jobs in the presidency to retired Army, General Security and State Security personnel and the appointment of Adnan Khalil Nassar as a director general in the presidency.

If a consensus is reached within the Cabinet, ministerial sources did not rule out the possibility of proposing from outside the agenda the appointment of members of the Petroleum Commission who will be in charge of licenses for offshore oil and gas exploration in Lebanon’s territorial waters.

Energy Minister Gebran Bassil said the Cabinet had agreed on the first person to be appointed for the body, but did not reveal the name.

Despite reports of a rift between Hezbollah and the Amal Movement on the Shiite candidate to the commission, ministerial sources said there was a consensus between the two Shiite parties on a man from the Hoteit family to the commission.

President Michel Sleiman, who will chair the Cabinet session, is expected to brief the ministers on the results of his participation in last week’s Non-Aligned Movement summit held in Iran as well as on his meetings with Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and heads of attending delegations.

It was noted that Sleiman did not meet the Syrian prime minister or any other Syrian official on the sidelines of the summit.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 03, 2012, on page 3.




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