President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, on Tuesday stressed the necessity to respect the decisions of the Supreme Defense Council, adopted today, and the strictness in implementation to limit negative repercussions on citizens and residents. The President saluted the efforts of the security and administrative agencies, who carried out raids on some stores with expired food, calling to activate the work of the Consumer Protection Authority and adopt strict measures against violators.
Moreover, President Aoun revealed that adopting the forensic audit was welcomed by the French Foreign Minister during his visit to Lebanon, considering that it is a real start to building the state.
For his part, Prime Minister Dr. Hassan Diab considered that the new Israeli assault against Lebanon is an attempt to amend the tasks of the UNIFIL forces, calling on the United Nations to condemn the Israeli attacks and enforce the implementation of Resolution 1701. PM Diab stressed that Lebanon refuses to amend the tasks of UNIFIL, and stresses that it should continue its mission in accordance with the current mandate, with no reductions.
PM Diab also considered that the message of the French Foreign Minister during his recent visit to Lebanon indicates that the international decision not to assist Lebanon is still in effect, affirming the need to strengthen our internal situation, unify the Lebanese position in negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and the quick transition to the second stage of these negotiations.
The Prime Minister stressed that “It is necessary to stop the extortion cases that the state is exposed to, on the economic and social levels”, pointing out that a large part of the problems is fabricated, and has no basis.”The country is floating on a lake of diesel, but the merchants conceal Diesel fuel in order to sell it on the black market at higher prices in order to achieve more profits” PM Diab asserted.
The positions of the President of the Republic and the Prime Minister came at the beginning of the cabinet session, held at 11:00 am in Baabda Palace.
A number of decisions was taken, most notably the extension of public mobilization until August 30, and the assignment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to file a complaint against Israel in the UN Security Council. The minister of finance was assigned to signing contracts with 3 companies to conduct forensic and financial audits, and approving a draft law that aims to exempt all motor vehicles from annual traffic fees and associated fines for 2020 – 2021 exclusively.
The session was preceded by a meeting between the President of the Republic and PM Diab.
Following the session minister of Information, Manal Abdel Samad, read the cabinet statement:
The Council of Ministers held its weekly session chaired by His Excellency the President of the Republic and attended by the Prime Minister and Ministers.
At the opening of the session, the President of the Republic congratulated the Lebanese in general, and the Muslims in particular, on the blessed Eid Al-Adha, hoping that God would evolve Lebanese into better conditions.
President Aoun addressed the dangerous increase in the number of cases of coronavirus disease, which led to impose the high strict measures to limit the spread of the pandemic. The President said “Today the Supreme Council of Defense adopted decisions that must be respected and strictly applied in an attempt to reduce the negative repercussions on citizens and residents”.
The President of the Republic highlighted the importance of food safety, pointing to the work of the security and administrative agencies who carried out raids on some stores that contained expired foodstuffs. The President indicated that “What is required of the concerned departments, especially the Ministry of Economy and Trade, is to follow the movement of these food commodities, and take strict measures against violators”.
President Aoun also called for the need to expedite the sentences of judgments, especially in urgent cases, because late justice is no justice.
His Excellency the President talked about the visit of the French Foreign Minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to Lebanon and the topics he presented during the meetings with Lebanese officials. President Aoun said that the adopting the Forensic Audit was welcomed by the French Minister, considering that it is a real start to building the state.
In parallel, PM Diab pointed out that what happened yesterday in the south due to an Israeli aggression on Lebanese territory, confirms the aggressive mind of Israel, and that there is no safety with this enemy who ignited a clash and attacked Lebanese sovereignty once again.
The Prime Minister stated that “This new aggression took place in parallel with an Israeli attempt to modify the tasks of UNIFIL in the south, and an attempt to pressure Lebanon by suggesting a reduction in the number of UNIFIL forces if the mission was not amended. Thus, the new Israeli attack on Lebanon is an attempt to put pressure in this direction”.
PM Diab added: “Today we stress two points, First: Lebanon condemns the continuous Israeli attacks on its sovereignty, and the continuous violation of Resolution 1701, and we demand the United Nations to condemn these attacks and impose the implementation on the Israeli enemy, because the continuation of its breach will lead to its dawn fall.
Second: Lebanon refuses to amend the tasks of UNIFIL, and stresses that its number will not be reduced because this leads to shaking UN Resolution 1701.This is the position of Lebanon, and we adhere to it”.
Then, PM Diab revealed the insight of the French foreign’s visit, and said “We received last week the French Minister of Foreign Affairs, who was clear that his visit does not carry a new initiative, and repeated the warning against delaying reforms and linking any assistance to Lebanon to the requested reform. He stressed that the International Monetary Fund is the only path for any help to Lebanon”.
PM Diab also pointed that “Regardless of the French minister’s warnings, and the lack of information he has about the extent of the reforms undertaken by the government, his words are indicative of two points:
1- The international decision not to assist Lebanon is still in effect.
2- The need to strengthen our internal situation , which is characterized by an external imbalance. Therefore, I stress the importance of unifying the Lebanese position in the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and move quickly to the second stage of these negotiations. At the same time, we need to activate the government action to fulfill the calendar of reforms we have developed”.
On the other hand, PM Diab stressed that “It is absolutely necessary in parallel, to stop the extortion that the state is exposed to, on the economic and social levels, that it is not acceptable what is happening in all sectors: in fuel, diesel, environment, food and consumer prices, hospitalization, and waste … in everything”.
“There is a state of debauchery practiced against the state. This is an abnormal situation, and it gives an indication of the existence of hidden mafias who control the country. It may be political or it commercial mafia. But more importantly, it also gives an indication of the state’s weakness towards these mafias. It is necessary to exercise firmness with these mafias, who are playing with the fate of the country and blackmailing the state and citizens, to make profits, in politics or in money, and in some cases, both, at the expense of the Lebanese.
A large part of the problems that we see is fabricated, and without foundation. The country is floating on a lake of diesel, but dealers conceal the diesel until to sell it on the black market at higher prices in order to achieve more profits” the Prime Minister continued.
The Prime Minister confirmed that the country is full of foodstuffs. “And there are enough warehouses in the country for 6 months, though merchants hide goods until they sell them on the black market at higher prices. There is an attempt by merchants to deactivate the subsidized basket of goods.
All this is due to political and financial investment, and poor monitoring, judicial, and security follow-up.
Hence, the measures are at stake, and we must protect them, through firmness and seriousness, in dealing with blackmail, commercial monopoly and political investment”.
PM Diab added: “This constitutes the starting point in the reform process, because without imposing a follow-up to these measures, reforms become dead.
Without the measures, the Coronavirus Pandemic will spread rapidly in our society, and the outcome will be very painful. There must be a determination to deal with this danger that is confronting us”.
“It is true that it is difficult, because our economy does not tolerate closure again, but people’s lives are more important than the economy” the Prime Minister concluded.
The cabinet examined the topics on its agenda and took appropriate decisions including:
-The Council of Ministers agreed to the Supreme Defense Council measures related to the extension of public mobilization until August 30, and the resulting procedures according to what was stated in the statement of the General Secretariat of the Supreme Defense Council.
-Condemning the Israeli aggression that occurred yesterday afternoon in the south, and instruct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to file a complaint to the UN Security Council.Commission the Minister of Finance to sign the contracts with companies: KPMG, Oliver Wayman, Alvarez-Marsal
-The government adopted the project submitted on lifting bank secrecy.
-Approval of a draft law aimed at exempting all motor vehicles from annual traffic fees and associated fines for the year 2020 -2021 exclusively.
-Approval of the extension of Decree No. 6278 dated 4/6/2020 related to the exemption of medical, hospital and laboratory supplies and equipment used for the prevention of coronavirus and the treatment of cases from customs duties until December 31, 2020
-Approval of the draft Law Enforcement Decree No. 28 of 10/2/2017, related to the right to access information.
-Approval of transferring successful members of the educational staff in the matches that were held as of 7/22/2017, and its results announced on 11/17/2017, the surplus of their number for the number approved by the Cabinet Resolution No. 52 of 3/28/2012, and appointing them as Educational inspector in the educational inspectorate staff.
-Mandating the High Relief Commission to survey the damage caused by fires in Baalbek Hermel and in Al-Habaria (due to the Israeli aggression yesterday”.
Questions & Answers:
Minister Abdel Samad then answered the journalists questions:
Q- what are the terms of the contract with the companies involved in carrying out the forensic audit, were they modified?
A- This issue has been discussed with the Minister of Finance. the terms of the contract have been delegated to sign its clauses after presenting it to the Legislation and Consulting Authority to agree to its provisions, most notably the preservation of confidentiality of information. Through this contract, the accounts will be audited for the past five years, and there will be 16 members who perform the auditing, 9 of whom will reside in Lebanon, and handle matters related to forensic audits and verify some operations.
Q-What is the item related to the creation of 3 departments in the Ministry of Information?
A- This is a previous measure from the previous governments and it is never inconsistent with a previous decision to cancel the Ministry of Information, nor with the reform plan laid down by the Ministry. It was currently included in the Information Law proposal that the Ministry of Information placed its amendments and observations on, and the Administration and Justice Committee received them. This is nothing more than a transitional stage until completing of all these procedures, and therefore we have organized the management and the deficiency that currently exist, especially on the topics of websites, information and others. The plan remains in place and upon approval, the amendments extend to the whole structure.
Q-: To whom did the prime minister direct his questions about the role of the security services and the judiciary?
A-The Prime Minister’s speech was directed to the ministers at the beginning of the session, and all of them were answered, because of course the procedural authority according to the constitution is responsible for all the armed forces, and therefore there must be coordination and a decision in the cabinet, and this is what happened to control coordination between 4 security services, which are the Army Intelligence, State Security, General Security, and Information branch, and also in coordination with other concerned ministries, both the ministry of Energy , in the matter of smuggling and monopolizing diesel, foodstuffs, prices, and others. the questions were during the session.
Q- Why are you insisting on signing the contract with Alvarez-Marsal, while it is the most expensive and it is also said that the company is not a forensic auditing company, and why did people not benefit so far from the food basket prices?
A- According to Alvarez-Marsal, a decision was taken in light of the data we discussed last week, as part of the data that were available to us and for security, legal and technical reasons, and we finished the topic. With regards to anticipating problems, we have envisioned potential problems and are working on them through the clauses of the contract in which we will put all our concerns and problems that may appear. And if any problems or other pitfalls arise later, then we will see. In principle there are previous, during, and after. We started with what was before, and we are currently looking at a situation, but what can happen after, we are supposed to be on the lookout for any problems.
Q-: What about the prices?
A- This is a role of the Ministry of Economy in cooperation with the security services, especially when it comes to supporting foodstuffs from the people’s money, which requires careful monitoring, and this is what the Ministry economy is doing.
Q- Did PM Diab talk about the lack of information passed by the French Foreign Minister, and about an international decision not to help Lebanon?
A- PM Diab expressed his opinion at the beginning of the session, which is his right. There is never a dispute about reforms, but everyone expresses it in their own way and language, and achieving this goal does not only serve us in terms of financing, but also internally because it has benefit for the country as a whole. And when we believe that reform is a national goal for everyone, no obstacle should raise whether it is from inside or outside the government, sectarian or even internationally, and we hope to reach this goal .
Q- What about the appointment of customs officers? and TL ?
A- The cabinet took a decision to appoint the 853 customs officers on the basis of efficiency, taking into account the national consensus, and we learned from the Minister of Finance that this decision was not applied due to the refusal of one of the members of the Supreme Council of Customs to sign it (and they are 3). A sponsor has been ordered to freeze the application, but the prime minister will follow up with the Minister of Finance to find a solution because it is a right for all involved.
As for appointments of TL- TV, I received two days ago from the Ministry of Administrative Development, the second stage of screening based on additional criteria for selecting people, and we will meet in light of the mechanism by which we work and was proposed by the Minister of Information and approved by the Council of Ministers, in the presence and approval of the President of the Republic, Then the meeting will be held with the President of the Civil Service Council and the Minister of Administrative Development to set a date for the interviews, and we hope that the results will be reached.
Q-Why was the measure taken to combat the Coronavirus epidemic interrupted?
A-It can be easier to absorb the procedures period as follows: 2/5/2/5. That is, we actually have two weeks divided by the first two days, because it is not possible to impose a complete closure at the same time without preparing people for that. There are five days of closure for scientific and technical reasons confined to the Ministry of Health and the Preventive Measures Committee, and statistics and analysis will be conducted during this period. After that, the country opens again on the fourth and fifth of August to run people’s affairs with the application of the exceptions noted in the decision, after which the complete closure is imposed from 6 to 10 August and then the results of the statistics and analyzes are issued, and in light of it a new decision is taken either towards adopting more measures or towards less. We have become sufficiently aware that the main risks of Coronavirus are caused by mixing, which leads to a significant increase in cases, and that deaths increased by 40%, this indicates that contact was the main cause and not the opening of the airport.
I reaffirm the primary role of the media in raising awareness, and we depend on the role that people must play, and they must be afraid not to be reckless, and this leads to restraint.
Q- It is said that the decision taken regarding the appointment of teachers to the central inspection is illegal, so why did the council violate the law?
A- There is no violation of the law according to what has been clarified. There is a need for educational inspectors because of the heavy turnout in public schools, and there is a fundamental reason lies in the fact that a person retains his right for two years in office, but there is a decision issued by the Council of Ministers in 2003 that states that after the passing of two years, the Council can take a decision on any surplus if it sees the need, and therefore there is no violation of the law because the Council reserves its right in this area, and this clarification was made in the Cabinet and the decision was taken on these basis.—Presidency Press Office
Source: National News Agency