Council of ministers decides to keep general mobilization until May 10, PM says government making great effort to curb financial deterioration

Fri 24 Apr 2020 at 22:53 Politics

NNA - During the meeting held in the Baabda Palace this afternoon, headed by President Michel Aoun and attended by Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab and the ministers, the Council of Ministers approved the extension of the public mobilization to confront the spread of the Coronavirus for a period of two weeks until 10/5/2020,  with a plan to "opening sectors" in a manner that considers the potential risks in the categories of economic activities of different types and diversities, indicating the level of priority, communication, and the possibility of adjusting places.

The Council also approved a series of proposed measures submitted by Minister of Justice Mary Claude Najm, in the fight against corruption, the most significant are: activating the internal and external tax investigation, and assigning an international office specializing in accounting investigation to audit contracts that were conducted with the state, and conducting a comprehensive survey on the aspects of wealth belonging to all officials who currently held or occupy ministerial and public positions and their family members.

President Aoun and President Diab wished the Lebanese people in general and Muslims in particular a blessed month of Ramadan.

President Aoun stressed that what happened yesterday regarding the exchange rate of the Lira- US dollar “cannot be the responsibility of the current government, but due to mistakes over 30 years, because the government has been working and tackled pressing issues, and has achieved within 70 days what governments have not achieved over the past three years.”  

He stressed on dealing with the accumulations and repercussions of the mistakes of the past decades, and hoped that "the plans that are laid out will start to be implemented ."

For his part, PM  Diab said in a speech after the session that "there is a dilemma represented by a suspicious ambiguity in the performance of the Governor of the Central Bank regarding the deterioration of the exchange rate of the Lebanese Lira, and this leads to speed up this deterioration, which is reflected negatively on everything in the country, especially on the social and living conditions, where the crises facing the Lebanese are exacerbated, while the role of the Central Bank appears to be either impotent or stalled by a decision or instigating this dramatic deterioration.” He called on the  Governor to be  frank with the Lebanese, speaking about major gaps in the performance of the Central Bank, with frankness and clarity, monetary policy, and accounts.

PM  Diab stressed that the state would strike with determination those who "plan the coup by pillaging people form their money again by raising the exchange rate of the Lira to US dollar , because they want the country to collapse and shake its stability, to protect themselves and their interests at the expense of the interest of Lebanon and tbe Lebanese"

The meeting was preceded by a meeting between President Aoun and PM  Diab.

At the end of  the session , PM  Diab said the following :

“Today it is the 73 days since the government won the confidence in Parliament, but some are holding the government accountable as if it had been in power for 73 months. Nevertheless, we accept objective accountability, we demand it, and we deal with transparency, frankness, honesty and clarity.

The government and the country have received enough complicated files, financial collapses, economic cracks, debt accumulation, and deep social and living crises, all  in light of the weak confidence, internally and externally, in the Lebanese state.

The Coronavirus pandemic  joined the bank in disrupting the government, which is  facing the most difficult test threatening people's lives, with almost no possibilities, and the absence of a healthy structure in the country that is supposed to protect its citizens and provide them with care.  Some went out to say that the Coronavirus epidemic saved the government, which had only had ten days of confidence when the epidemic swept through the country.  Whereas, in reality, facing the Coronavirus epidemic has depleted us of a lot of time, effort, and the meager financial capabilities available to deal with the consequences .  This pandemic  has overwhelmed the government, and the agenda has changed, because people's lives are our priority.  But that did not prevent us from continuing to face the epidemic of financial reality as well, and we dealt very realistically with the black financial hole in Lebanon, and we are still working on blocking this black hole.

Meanwhile, unfortunately, there are those who insist on deepening the financial crisis, as the deterioration of the exchange rate of the Lebanese lira is suspiciously accelerating in the black market.  Despite the limited authority of the government to deal with this deterioration, given that monetary policy is entrusted to the Central bank based on the monetary and credit law, we are making great efforts to curb this deterioration.  Realistically, there is a dilemma represented by a suspicious ambiguity in the performance of the Governor of the central Bank of Lebanon regarding the deterioration of the exchange rate of the Lebanese Lira.  The role of the Central bank appears to be either impotent, stalled by a decision or instigating this dramatic deterioration in the price of the national currency.

From here, it is no longer possible to continue the backstage treatment policy.  There should be clarity and frankness with the Lebanese. The dealing  with people must change. There should not be secret information kept from them, while they are paying for the consequences of this policy.  Let the governor of the Central bank come out and announce to the Lebanese the facts frankly.  And why is what happens?  What is the treatment horizon?  And what is the ceiling of the dollar's rise ... The Lebanese people live in great concern, worried  about a living, and anxiety over a lifetime, salaries that have eroded and lost their value and worried about the future.  Can the bank’s governor still continue to assure them of the exchange rate of the Lebanese pound, as he did months ago, then suddenly these assurances evaporated?

There are major gaps in the central  Bank’s performance , a gap in strategies, a gap in openness and clarity, a gap in monetary policy, and a gap in accounts.  The data that we have in our hands reveals that the accumulated losses in the Central bank are accelerating, and they have increased by 7 billion dollars since the beginning of this year and until the mid of April, including 3 billion in the last four weeks.

Hence the importance of the historic decision that we made with His Excellency the President of the Republic, to assign an international neutral company an audit to the Central bank, a commitment by the government to transparency and clarity in dealing with the gap in the financial system in Lebanon.

Simultaneously, liquidity in Lebanese banks is running out, and so what is required is to take initiative and act quickly.  The figures reveal the transfer of $ 5.7 billion in deposits from Lebanese banks during January and February of this year, and we did not check the amount of money that came out from the Central bank and the banking sector, since the first of March until today.

Therefore, we are discussing a draft law that binds all bank shareholders, natural and juridical, and those with economic rights who have a direct or indirect possession of no less than 5% of the capital of any bank operating in Lebanon and all the people who hold positions in the higher management of banks, and people who have held Political, administrative, judicial, or military positions  in the Lebanese state or in the public administrations or public interests of the Lebanese state, to return all the funds transferred by them or upon their request abroad after the date of 10/17/2019 that exceeds the amount of 50 thousand dollars, which was transferred by these banks, under penalty of invalidity of transfers, and criminal prosecution of crimes of smuggling funds and illicit enrichment.

Expediting the approval of the financial plan is an urgent necessity in the near future. The sooner we adopt this plan, the more likely it will be to achieve a financial rescue.  This plan, which we discussed with representatives of the various sectors that represent most segments of Lebanese society.  We hear the voices of the Lebanese who are calling for change, for revolutionary accountability, for confiscating some money for the benefit of the state, and others are imprisoned.  But this government is not a revolutionary court, and change actually takes place from within the mechanisms of the existing system, accountability is under the law, and perpetrators will inevitably go to prison, with the task of the Lebanese judiciary, which we rely on to be at the level of the Lebanese aspirations to achieve justice and hold perpetrators accountable.

Nevertheless, the government is firm in its decision to protect the country, and we will not allow, under any circumstances, to harm the interests and property of the Lebanese and reap the age they harvested by the sweat of the forehead and their livelihood.  Today, the government is busy securing the minimum level of resilience for the Lebanese whose work has been hampered by the Coruna epidemic and the measures to confront it.

We know that the aids  we began distributing are modest compared to the requirements of life, but they are heavy compared to the capabilities of the exhausted state in the black financial hole.

What is important today is the concerted efforts of everyone, the state, the well-off, and civil societies, to cross this very difficult situation, which requires national social solidarity.  The government will continue to make every effort to fulfill its duties to protect citizens. 

To date, the Lebanese army has completed the distribution of about one hundred thousand aid packages  from the financial allocations decided by the government to the most needy families in all Lebanese regions due to the measures of protect from Coronavirus, and we are still almost halfway through, but we will continue efforts to alleviate the Lebanese, hoping to finish the process of distributing  aid within ten days .

Aid is given in schools across all Lebanese territory, but the return of road blocking will hinder this task, especially as the aid process will move to homes starting next week.

We have extended public mobilization until May 10, 2020, but it is time for us to start re-opening our country.  We all want our normal lives back.  People and companies struggle.  This is an unprecedented period in the history of our country.  Our strategy with COVID19 was effective due to all the sacrifices we all made.  Let's not miss it up. We are not immune to the virus and there will be no vaccine in the coming months.

The government has evaluated the various sectors based on the risk assessment and priority plan, and we have developed a phased approach to lift the closure.  This plan is coupled with a massive test plan led by the Ministry of Health to identify and isolate those who carry the virus.  But lifting the lockdown could destroy our country with a new outbreak and a second wave of infection.  We must continue to pay attention to how we act to prevent loss of life.

We flattened the curve, but we must continue to be smart and disciplined to ensure it stays that way.  We will lose our success in containing the spread of the Corona pandemic if we do not adhere to the implementation measures laid down by the authorities.  It would be painful if we ended up with similar horrific scenes in hospitals around the world.  The last thing we want is to move from one closure to another.  Therefore, the government will continue its duties to protect the Lebanese from health epidemics, corruption, financial and living epidemics.

The government will be a strong umbrella for the anti-corruption workshop, which the judiciary bears the burden of accompanying, in a transparent and independent manner, and without any hesitation, equivocation or coherence.  I want to send a clear message, in simple language, to be understood by those who think we will watch them digging ambushes and planning a coup by robbing people of their money again by raising the exchange rate of the US dollar.  Let them hear me well: We will not allow ... and we will not tolerate ... in suppressing all the tampering with financial stability, because these tampering people want the collapse of the country and shake its stability, to protect themselves and their interests at the expense of the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese.  Let them hear clearly: the state will strike firmly.  And it will teach those who wronged any return overturn."

Minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad, released  the following statement at the end of the cabinet session.

“The Council of Ministers held its weekly session chaired by His Excellency the President of the Republic and the presence of the Prime Minister and Ministers. The Minister of Youth and Sports Vartini Ohanyan was absent. 

At the beginning of the session, His Excellency congratulated the Lebanese President in general and Muslims in particular, on the blessed month of Ramadan, wishing that the happy Eid Al-Fitr and Lebanon would enjoy  Good, safety and peace of mind, and in better conditions in various fields.

Then His Excellency renewed the call to the necessity of speeding up the completion of a step-by-step plan in which the necessary measures are taken to improve the economic and financial conditions in the country, stopping at what happened yesterday regarding the Lira-  dollar exchange rate , which threatens the safety of Lebanese cash and economic stability, and the integrity of the state conditions, which cannot be tolerated because it affects economic and social growth, and therefore each official must bear the consequences of his responsibilities.  He said: "Frankly, we cannot be blamed as current government for the mistakes that occurred over the past 30 years, because the government has worked and has been working since its formation, to address urgent issues, and it has achieved within 70 days what governments have not achieved over the past three years."

His Excellency added: "The accumulation that has occurred during the past thirty years and the repercussions on various levels, are issues that we are working to address successively, and, God willing, the plans that are laid out will begin and we will start implementation."

The Prime Minister  spoke congratulating the Lebanese and Muslims on the turn of the blessed month of Ramadan, and said: "The campaigns that the government is exposed to are clear, and we will not be watching the events that happen and public opinion must be candid with what is going on."

His Excellency the President indicated that he informs from the army leadership that the operations of distributing aid to citizens are continuing, and have so far included 100,000 families, and distribution is continuing during the next ten days.

After that, the cabinet began studying the agenda, and took appropriate decisions regarding it, the most prominent of which are:

First: Approval of a draft decree aimed at extending the declaration of public mobilization to confront the spread of the Coronavirus for a period of two weeks, starting from 27/4/2020 to 5/10/2020, provided that this accompanies the approval of a plan to “open sectors” in a manner that takes into consideration potential risks within the categories of economic activities  In its variation and diversity, with an indication of the priority level, the intensity of communication, and the possibility of adjusting the place, according to a schedule that includes a presentation to measure the risks and the economic impact of each stage of the plan, which is divided into five stages distributed as follows:

1. The first phase begins on 27/4/2020 (the most priority and the least dangerous)

The government will be a strong umbrella for the anti-corruption workshop, which the judiciary bears the burden of accompanying, in a transparent and independent manner, and without any hesitation, equivocation or coherence.  I want to send a clear message, in simple language, to be understood by those who think we will watch them digging ambushes and planning a coup by robbing people of their money again by raising the exchange rate of the US dollar.  Let them hear me well: We will not allow ... and we will not tolerate ... in suppressing all the tampering with financial stability, because these tampering people want the collapse of the country and shake its stability, to protect themselves and their  interests at the expense of the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese.  Let them hear clearly: the state will strike firmly.  And it will teach those who wronged any return overturn. "

After the session ended, the Minister of Information Manal Abdel Samad distributed the following statement:

“The Council of Ministers held its weekly session chaired by His Excellency the President of the Republic and the presence of the Prime Minister and Ministers who were absent from them Minister of Youth and Sports Vartini Ohanyan.  At the beginning of the session, His Excellency congratulated the Lebanese President in general and Muslims in particular, by the blessed month of Ramadan, wishing that the happy Eid Al-Fitr and Lebanon would enjoy Good, safety and peace of mind, and be better  conditions in various fields.

Then His Excellency renewed the call to the necessity of speeding up the completion of a step-by-step plan in which the necessary measures are taken to improve the economic and financial conditions in the country, stopping at what happened yesterday in relation to the dollar  exchange rate compared to the Lebanese pound, which threatens the safety of Lebanese cash and economic stability, and the integrity of the regime's conditions banking, which cannot be tolerated because it affects economic and social growth, and therefore each official must bear the consequences of his  responsibilities.  He said: "Frankly, we cannot blame us and the current government for the mistakes that occurred over the past 30 years, because the government has worked and has been working since its formation, to address urgent issues, and it has achieved within 70 days  what governments have not achieved over the past three years. "

His Excellency added: "The accumulation that has occurred during the past thirty years and the repercussions on various levels, we are working to address them successively, and, God willing, the plans that are laid out will begin and we will start implementation."

Then the President spoke congratulating the Lebanese and Muslims on the turn of the blessed month of Ramadan, and said: "The campaigns that the government is exposed to are clear, and we will not be watching the events that happen and public opinion  must be candid with what is going on. "

His Excellency the President indicated that he informs from the army leadership that the operations of distributing aid to citizens are continuing, and have so far included 100,000 families, and distribution is continuing during the next ten days.

After that, the cabinet began studying the agenda, and took appropriate decisions regarding it, the most prominent of which are:

First: Approval of a draft decree aimed at extending the declaration of public mobilization to confront the spread of the Corona virus for a period of two weeks, starting from 4/27/2020 to 5/10/2020, provided that this accompanies the approval  of a plan to “open sectors” in a manner that takes into account potential risks within the categories of economic activities in its variation and diversity, with an indication of the priority level, the intensity of communication, and the possibility of adjusting the place,  According to a schedule that includes a presentation to measure the risks and the economic impact of each stage of the plan, which is divided into five stages distributed as follows:

1. The first phase begins on 27/4/2020 (the most priority and the least dangerous)

The government will be a strong umbrella for the anti-corruption workshop, which the judiciary bears the burden of accompanying, in a transparent and independent manner, and without any hesitation, equivocation or coherence.  I want to send a clear message, in simple language, to be understood by those who think we will watch them digging ambushes and planning a coup by robbing people of their money again by raising the exchange rate of the US dollar.  Let them hear me well: We will not allow ... and we will not tolerate ... in suppressing all the tampering with financial stability, because these tampering people want the collapse of the country and shake its stability, to protect themselves and their  interests at the expense of the interest of Lebanon and the Lebanese.  Let them hear clearly: the state will strike firmly.  And it will teach those who wronged any return overturn.”

According to a schedule that includes a presentation to measure the risks and the economic impact of each stage of the plan, which is divided into five stages distributed as follows:

1. The first phase starts on 27/4/2020 (the most priority and the least dangerous)

2. The second stage begins on 4/5/2020

3. The third stage begins on 11/5/2020

4. The fourth stage begins on 25/5/2020

5. The fifth stage begins on 6/8/2020

Stressing the commitment to continue adopting the safe distance between all people, as well as adopting the mask made of fabric as a minimum to cover the nose and mouth outside the place of residence and instructing the Ministry of Interior and Municipalities and the competent security services to follow up on the citizens‘ ’commitment to what was stated in this decision, especially issuing the necessary circulars to put those who requested their implementation into effect.

- Mandate the relevant ministries, municipalities, and federations of municipalities in coordination with trade unions, employers, and the Coronavirus Prevention Follow-up Committee, to develop a manual for prevention within the workplace that takes care of hygiene conditions, safe distances, and other safety measures, especially remote work, and setting alternate schedules to a minimum that would ensure continuity of traffic, in addition to assigning them to provide monitors from different sectors after their training by the Lebanese Red Cross to carry out the task of supervision and keep pace with the application of public safety standards and procedures specified by each sector.

Setting an alternate schedule for public sector employees (with the exception of all military and security agencies, hospital and health institutions and / or that are concerned with health and medical care ) in a manner that ensures business continuity and implementing the necessary transactions for citizens, and taking the necessary measures to prevent overcrowding within departments and to maintain safe distances and in line with  The procedures stated in this resolution related to public safety, which remain in effect even after the date of 6/8/2020.

- All judicial bodies are required to ensure the progress of the work of the courts of all types and diversity to the extent that would take into account the measures of prevention and safety, prevent overcrowding and maintain safe distances, and in line with the procedures stated in this decision related to public safety, which remain in effect even after a date  8/6/2020.

- Emphasizing the follow-up to the implementation of the Minister of Interior and Municipalities Decree No. 479 dated 04/4/2020 regarding the timing of cars and trucks running according to their license plate numbers, until the end of the general mobilization period referred to in the first item.

- All private institutions not noted in the plan that is the subject of this decision are required to resume work from the aforementioned third stage and take the necessary measures to organize this work.

- Emphasizing on citizens over the age of 65 to stay with homes and not go out except for the most urgent necessity, during the first, second and third stages referred to above.

- It is forbidden to go out on the streets and between 9:00 pm in and 5:00 am for the entire period of mobilization shown in the first item, taking into amconsiderarion the exceptions noted in the memo issued by the Minister of Interior and Municipalities No. 40 / AM / 2020 and its annexes.

- A weekly evaluation process will be made for the plan to reopen the sectors noted in the body of this decision, and that it is up to Mr. Prime Minister to make any necessary adjustments.

Second: Approving a law proposal aimed at repealing the second paragraph of Article 845 of the Civil Procedure Law (abolishing the use of force and entering homes in cases of handing over children).

Third: Approving the request of the Audit Bureau to assign the Civil Service Council to conduct an open match to appoint monitors and auditors of its staff.

Fourth: Approval of the Ministry of Communications request to approve the extension of Cabinet Decision No. 13 dated 12/3/2020 related to the Ministry’s proposal to raise the speed of consumption of Internet customers ’subscriptions to the Ministry of Communications / Ogero on the local network, until the end of June 2020 and give an additional 100 GB  Free monthly for all subscribers and insured internet services on the Ministry of Communications - Ogero Authority.

Fifth: Approval of the Finance Ministry’s proposal to perform consensual agreement contracts in support of Article 12 of Article 147 of the Public Accounting Law, with both KPMG, Kroll and Oliver Wyman, in the context of implementing the previous Cabinet Resolution No. 3/2020 related to assigning the Minister of Finance to take actions required with the Central bank and with the relevant authorities, with the aim of conducting a focused accounting audit.

The council listened to the ministries of industry and public health, who presented present the joint plan with regard to the pharmaceutical industry in Lebanon.  The Ministry of Industry presented strategic axes for the development of the industrial sector and its executive mechanisms, and took note of them.

The Council also took note of the decision of the Minister of Energy and Water to postpone the deadline for submitting applications for participation in the second licensing course in marine waters to 1/6/2020.

The Council also heard  the Prime Minister  about the stage reached in preparing the government’s reform program, and the extensive discussions that followed in this regard, and presented the summary of the discussion sessions that took place and the opinions and ideas contained in them in preparation for the final decision of the program within the deadline of next Thursday on 4/30/2020, and take note of the matter. "

The topic of anti-corruption and combat of corruption, "based on the existence of draft laws and proposals submitted to the Parliament in the matter of combating corruption, it does not negate the government's desire to take immediate measures aimed at holding crimes against public money accountable and recovering smuggled or stolen money based on the laws in force, the government discussed and approved the measures proposed by the Minister of Justice, which deal with:

1. Activate the internal tax investigation for all natural and legal persons who have entered into contracts or obligations with the state, public institutions or municipalities.

2. Activating the external tax investigation based on international agreements to obtain automatic access to and requesting the necessary information on bank accounts open abroad for the benefit of natural and legal persons taking the place of tax residence in Lebanon, in order to collect any money resulting from tax evasion, and in the event of suspicions of corruption, referral of those concerned  To the competent court.

3. Assigning an international office specialized in Forensic Audit to audit contracts concluded with the Lebanese state and natural and legal persons, and in the restrictions and budgets of these persons, to determine the whereabouts of any fraud, waste, or looting in the spending of public money, and to take the legal requirement.

4. Prepare a list of the names of ministers and MPs, including those whose mandate has expired, and verify the presentation of the permits required by Article 4 of the Unlawful Enrichment Law, as well as for employees and those in charge of a public service, provided that the legal consequences for violators are arranged.

5. Conducting a comprehensive survey about the wealth manifestations belonging to all personalities who currently held ministerial and representative positions and members of their families, as well as for employees and those who perform a public service, and preparing detailed reports on the manifestations of their wealth, up to reporting on the results of surveys and taking legal measures in the event of disparity between appearances, rich and legitimate incomes.

6. Depending on absolute transparency, bank secrecy is automatically lifted in any new contract by dealing with expenditures from public money.

7. Activate the late control of the Audit Bureau on the accounts of natural and legal persons who receive contributions or funds from the state, public institutions or municipalities, or make contracts and obligations with them.

8. Forming a central task force task force to receive complaints, announcements and disclosures related to the work of ministers and public employees, according to the Law to Protect Detectors of Corruption No. 83/2018, provided that it continues to implement the details of all these measures in coordination between the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Finance, and the Ministry of Administrative Development through the Technical Support Committee  Ministerial Committee against Corruption.

Provided that all of the above measures and topics are approved by their final texts at the next government meeting.—Presidency Press Office 

 

 

 

 

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