Following are summaries of some of the main stories in a selection of Lebanese newspapers Friday. The Daily Star cannot vouch for the accuracy of these reports.
Hezbollah responds to March 14 today in favor of Syria's interests
At a time when the government approved a salary scale for public employees following two lengthy sessions, economic bodies refused the endorsement of the pay scale, calling on the government not to tamper with economic security and warning it that imposing more taxes on citizens and economic institutions will generate an explosion.
Meanwhile, the Union Coordination Committee [a coalition of public and private school teachers and public sector employees] is expected to announce its stance on the endorsement of the salary scale during a meeting to be held at 3 p.m. today.
On the political level, Hezbollah will respond today to the March 14 petition and, as usual, in favor of Syria’s and Iran’s interests. Meanwhile, the Syrian regime continued violating Lebanese sovereignty by penetrating the airspace and terrorizing peaceful citizens while flying low over Lebanese villages [already] targeted in the last few days by unjustified [Syrian] shelling.
President Sleiman sole opponent of salary scale
Finally, after intense evening consultations coupled with street pressure, the Cabinet approved the salary scale – but to be paid in installments. This followed hours of debate Thursday and lengthy discussions the day before.
Funding for the salary increase will rely on tax revenue generated from the affluent class, a decision that delighted ministers of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP).
“This is the first government in the history of Lebanese governments that does not impose taxes on the poor,” Acting Information Minister Wael Abu Faour told reporters following Cabinet’s meeting yesterday. “This government is socialist.”
The pay scale draft law, which faced substantial reservations Wednesday on the part of ministers affiliated with President Michel Sleiman, some ministers affiliated with Prime Minister Najib Mikati as well as PSP ministers, appeared to be opposed solely by Sleiman Thursday.
PSP sources told Al-Akhbar that the party was not against the pay scale but was against approving it before securing the sources of funding and ensuring that the poor would be exempt from taxes.
The sources said the PSP no longer had reservations about the salary increase after the type of tax was determined.
The draft law still requires Parliament’s approval.
Monthly cost of salary increase is LL119 billion ... funding requires new Cabinet sessions
Approval of the troubled pay scale: financial and legislative difficulties freeze implementation
Economic bodies oppose [increase] as UCC is perplexed ... Jumblatt stands in solidarity with Sleiman
The salary scale has been approved and public employees – administrative, educational, diplomatic and military – went to bed on a promise that they would get a salary increase that would cost the government [at least $1.6 billion annually].
However, the increase seems to have suspended following the ambiguous situation resulting from the government action.
The confusion not only appeared among the UCC, but included several ministers. It remains unclear funding is to be secured, whether or not retroactive pay will be made in installments, and whether or not the salary increase will be commensurate with the rise in the cost of living.
Well-informed sources told Al-Liwaa that four problems face the pay scale: Funding, the economic bodies’ opposition, retroactive pay installments and approval in Parliament.
Securing revenues still unresolved ... UCC rejects installments, announces its position today
Government evades [problem] by approving pay increase in installments ... with a stay of execution!
Has the pay scale been approved or not? The answer is uncertain, as it is clear that the government’s announcement of the approval was incomplete, since the issue of securing the revenues was not solved, despite the lengthy meeting which lasted more than six hours.
The UCC is expected to announce its official stance today after thoroughly mulling over the decision, but head of the Secondary School Teachers Association Hanna Gharib said he rejects the proposal to pay the raise in installments, “which is a breach of the agreement between the ministerial committee and the UCC.”
Ministerial sources told Al-Mustaqbal that the pay increase will take effect only after the Cabinet has finalized its debate on the revenues.