The President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, said that “The current stage is a stage of action, because the general situation in the country imposes so”, noting that there are measures which will be taken to bear everyone’s responsibilities in what happened, especially for illegal fund transfers which have exacerbated the crisis. The President pointed out that “What we have noticed so far is that there are grave breaches and each party will bear its responsibilities in this field”.
President Aoun explained that the failure to sign the 2020 Budget is due to the lack of ratification of a law related to account cutoff issue, stressing that the budget will be issued after the end of the constitutional deadline according to Articles 56 and 57 of the Constitution.
Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, assured the start of the first step towards tackling the accumulations of 30 years of wrong policies which led the country to collapse. Diab stressed that the next stage is difficult for all of us and it is our duty to find solutions to reduce the size of the crisis and its repercussions, by all means.
PM Diab stressed that “People of the “Popular Movement” must be represented in the committees, each according to specialization, provided that they are those with experience and knowledge, in compliance with our promises and work in a scientific and professional manner”.
Stances of the President, and Prime Minister, came during a Cabinet session, held at 10:30am at the Presidential Palace, which was preceded by a meeting between both sides.
The Cabinet approved a draft law aiming at concluding a loan agreement between the Lebanese Government and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development, at a value of 50 million Kuwaiti Dinars (equivalent to 165 Million US Dollars), to contribute to financing the housing loan project. Cabinet also decided to set up a mechanism to implement the contents of the Policy Statement, in accordance with a road map, its approval, as well as the review of Ministerial committees, when necessary.
Statement of the Information Minister:
“The Council of Ministers held a meeting session, chaired by His Excellency, the President of the Republic, in the presence of the Prime Minister and Ministers, before noon at the Presidential palace. At the beginning, the President indicated that the current stage is a stage of action, because the general situation in the country imposes so, adding that the committees’ work is continuing to reach practical proposals which will be presented to the Cabinet, after studying them, to take appropriate decisions.
Then, his Excellency spoke about the reasons which led him not to sign the 2020 Budget, indicating that this is due to the lack of ratification of a law related to the issue of account cut off, and therefore the Budget cannot be issued without it. His Excellency asked to provide the auditors and experts necessary for the Accounting Bureau, so that the account can be completed as soon as possible. The President pointed out that the sum of wasted amounts, which are without evidence, has reached a large amount, including treasury advances, it is not known how it was disbursed along with other amounts, and were received as gifts to the High Relief Authority. The President also indicated that the Budget will be issued after the constitutional deadline has expired, according to Article 57 of the Constitution. Concerning the banking conditions, His Excellency spoke about the continuous follow-up he had made during the past days and the meetings he had held, pointing out that there is several information which we still need to clarify the picture. The President noted that “There are measures which we will take to assume each individual’s responsibilities in what happened, especially illegal money transfers which have exacerbated the crisis, and what we have observed so far is that there are serious violations and each party will bear its responsibilities in this field.
Then Prime Minister Diab said: “Today we started the first step towards tackling the accumulations of 30 years of false policies which brought the country to the collapse which is happening today. Corruption, waste, favoritism, and compromises have exhausted the State’s treasury”.
PM Diab added that “Unfortunately, the country has reached a dead end due to these accumulations, and the fireball has grown a lot, but we were able to gather it and assume our national responsibilities to save Lebanon. Today, officials from the International Monetary Fund began their visit to Lebanon, at Lebanon’s request, and met the delegation in the morning. We launched the workshop and, God willing, we will reach the results which comfort the country at all levels of financial, social, economic and living”.
“Today we are living in a real economic and financial emergency, and it is normal for us to hear the cry of the people who are paying for this situation. His Excellency informed the Finance Minister of the circular of the Governor of the Central Bank to regulate the relationship between banks and customers. The Finance Ministry will prepare an expedited draft law for study in the Cabinet and refer it to the Parliament” PM Diab added.
The Prime Minister added that “The next stage is difficult for all of us and for the country and people, but it is our duty to find solutions to reduce the scale of the crisis and its repercussions. In any case, we are facing a historical turning point, and our concern is to protect the country, people and various sectors by all means which we can resort to, in order to achieve this result”.
“I had commissioned the Vice-President to draw up a road map for the implementation of the terms of the Policy Statement, to use the existing committees if they were still standing and appropriate for this purpose, and to form new committees, according to the need. In parallel, we work in a systematic and scientific way” PM Diab said.
Then, the Prime Minister stressed that “People of the Popular Movement must be represented in the committees, each according to specialization, provided that they enjoy specialization, experience, and knowledge, in compliance with our promises, an work in a scientific and professional manner, and the required reforms will be presented in the next stage”.
Afterwards, the Cabinet began studying its agenda and took the appropriate decisions, the most prominent of which are:
First: Establishing a mechanism to implement the contents of the Policy statement in accordance with an approved road map, as well as review the ministerial committees when necessary.
Second: Approval of the Energy Ministry and Water’s proposal to allow companies that manage hazardous waste, which will result from the first exploration well in the No. 4 plot in Lebanese marine waters, to carry out their work in preparation for the start of drilling the first well in the next few days.
Third: Approval of a draft law aimed at concluding a loan agreement between the government of the Lebanese Republic and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development at a value of 50 million Kuwaiti dinars, equivalent to 165 million dollars, which includes the management and restoration agreements.
The aforementioned lending, to contribute to the financing of the housing project (second stage), and a draft decree referring the aforementioned bill to the Parliament. The Cabinet decided to confirm the Council for Development and Reconstruction to complete the negotiation with the Fund to secure a new loan for the General Housing Corporation, under the same conditions stipulated in the agreement signed with the Central Bank in accordance with the Cabinet decision on 10/21/2019.
The meeting tackled the mechanism for the appointment of first-class employees and the options available for this appointment”.
Dialogue with Journalists:
Then a dialogue took place between journalists and Minister Abdel Samad, where she clarified in response to a question that “There were committees which were established under previous Governments to be reconsidered in order to verify their effectiveness and the feasibility of maintaining or dispensing with them, because our goal is to work effectively without diving into actions. And if it is necessary to create new committees, this will be done in light of the need, with the adoption of the principle of reducing the number of committees to the maximum extent, in a way which ensure efficiency in work”.
Asked about the Eurobond issue, Abdel Samad said that “It was not raised today, but work is still underway within the framework of specialized committees”.
Asked about the reason for not distributing the agenda before the session, she replied: “We mentioned the agenda within the rules 48 hours ago, and we were aware of it. We have transparency at our work, and this will be clarified more and more in the coming days”.
Responding to a question about the existence of a new appointment mechanism, Abdel Samad said: “There is a mechanism which was previously approved, and will be re-examined in light of that it will be either approved, updated, or modified after discussion which will take place in the next session”.
Asked if there was someone who would be neutral to discuss the Eurobond issue, she said: “We have not neutralized this issue, but rather there are specialized committees which study everything related to it. In the final stage, the final decision will be for the Council of Ministers, and the International Monetary Fund has a technical opinion”.
In response to a question about the committees that were formed, Abdel Samad said: “They are mixed committees from relevant Ministries and departments as well as from the private sector, so that the Movement will have a role if there are issues that he wishes to expresses his opinion on.” As for whether there is a specific number that has been identified so far, she stated: “I prefer not to trade numbers as long as they are still within the framework of cutting account”.
Asked whether the failure of the President to sign the Budget law would lead to a problem in exchange, she replied: “The constitution is clear in this context, and within days the deadline will expire, and the budget will be approved without the signature of the President”.
Asked whether the President of the Republic intended that the previous Government had paid unspecified money in the context of his mention to the High Relief Authority, Abdel Samad replied: “We cannot answer whose result has not yet ended, and investigations have not yet taken place. I leave the matter to the relevant authorities in the investigation”.
In response to a question about the President’s stance about banking information, and whether it means that reserve numbers in the Central Bank, and whether the Governor of the Central Bank has not yet given the numbers, Abdel Samad replied: “Yes, and this matter is being followed up with the Ministry of Finance in order for these figures to be obtained from the Governor, they are supposed to arrive in an administrative manner at the ministry in order to obtain them”. -- Presidency press office