Lebanon News

Eyes on Cabinet session to discuss policy statement

BEIRUT: Eyes are set on a Cabinet meeting Thursday, during which Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government will discuss and likely approve the policy statement draft, paving the way for Parliament’s vote of confidence.

Cabinet will convene at Baabda Palace, at 9 a.m., in a session chaired by President Michel Aoun to give a final read of the draft that was prepared by a ministerial committee.

The draft policy statement outlines the new Cabinet’s policies on internal and external issues. It also sets out the Cabinet’s plan to deal with the worsening economic and financial situation in the country.

Lebanon is facing one of its worse economic crises since the end of the 1975-90 Civil War.

The 17-page draft that The Daily Star had obtained a copy of, states that in order to address the current situation it must rapidly take “painful steps” to avoid a “total collapse” of the economy.

It includes a series of reforms focusing on the judiciary and fighting corruption.

It also recognizes the demands made by the people after protesters took to the streets since Oct. 17 in a call for a new ruling class and the end of corruption. Later Wednesday, protesters gathered at the Riad al-Solh square, in rejection of the new government.

In addition to the demands made by the people, the draft said that it commits to the awaited reforms expected by donor countries, especially at the CEDRE conference held in Paris back in 2018.

The reforms are essential to unlock more than $11 billion in grants and soft loans pledged by donor countries at the conference to finance the implementation of vital infrastructure projects in Lebanon.

The draft states that necessary and urgent measures should be taken in order to eliminate the deficit caused by the electricity.

Nevertheless, the draft says that preparing an “alternative study and plan is going to take up to a year. Hence, this is going to lead to a delay in securing electricity.”

The government, according to the pledge, will follow the electricity plan approved by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government.

The approach to the electricity crisis in the draft statement was criticized by Speaker Nabih Berri during his weekly meeting with lawmakers Wednesday.

MP Ali Bazzi quoted Berri as saying that “he was surprised that the electricity issue is being approached in the same manner as it was before.”

Berri said that it was likely that the vote of confidence session for Diab’s government would be held starting Tuesday, if the policy statement was referred to Parliament by Friday morning.

Parliament's vote of confidence session comes amid threats by groups of anti-government protesters to block roads leading to Nijmeh Square, where Parliament is located, in a bid to prevent lawmakers from reaching the building.

During the meeting with MPs, Berri also called on the different political sides to commit to defusing the situation in the country in order to create the suitable atmosphere “to restore the political life in the country based on the Constitution and law.”

“We are in front of change for a real change to save [the country]. Either we [use] it and we succeed or we don’t and so we lose,” the speaker said.

Separately, Berri chaired the weekly Development and Liberation parliamentarian bloc meeting.

The bloc hoped that the policy statement would include a clear rescue plan for the country’s economic and social crises.

Reading the bloc’s statement, MP Anwar Khalil said that the bloc called on the Cabinet to work towards finding quick solutions in order to “stop the humiliation of the Lebanese people” especially in the banks.

“Banks and their owners should bear the legal responsibility in consequence to subjecting [people’s] livelihood and money to danger,” the statement added.

Earlier in the day, Berri said, "We received confirmation that five bank owners transferred their own personal money abroad and that amounts to $2.3 billion."

Local TV channel Al-Jadeed reported that a financial meeting was held in Ain al-Tineh that included Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni, MPs Ali Hasan Khalil, Ali Fayyad and Hasan Fadlallah.

 

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