The Council of Ministers met today for the fifth time to discuss the draft budget. After the session, the Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah said:
At the onset of the session, the Prime Minister stressed the need to accelerate the completion of the draft budget and that there will be daily sessions until its completion this week. Prime Minister Hariri condemned the Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip, expressing his regret for the loss of a large number of martyrs and wounded as a result of the Israeli attacks. He condemned this brutal Israeli action.
I will now read a statement that has been formulated in order for us to be accurate and we hope that it will be used as is:
There was a discussion about the strikes and demonstrations taking place, mostly based on false information that were not discussed in the cabinet. Some of the strikes took place under the pretext of being preemptive strikes.
The Council of Ministers wants to clarify the following: the leaked information are unfounded and incomplete, mislead the public opinion and do not serve the national interest or the citizens. It does not help build confidence between the state and the citizen, at a time when the government is working to restore the confidence between the citizens, the public servants and the state institutions.
The disruption of public facilities and institutions at this delicate stage just adds to the complication of the crisis, at a time where positive efforts must be combined to help solve the crisis based on our national responsibility.
The Council of Ministers adopted the content of the memorandum issued by the Prime Minister, No. 14/2019, and stressed the call to uphold the logic of law, reason and national responsibility towards the citizens and the logic of the state and institutions. It also stressed its keenness to secure the interests of all citizens.
The Council of Ministers asks all those who stopped working to abide by the memorandum issued by the Prime Minister and to find out the truth from its source and not believe rumors that aim to hurt the reform plans to save the country. The doors of the Prime Minister and all the ministers are open for discussion and dialogue with all components of the Lebanese society and clarify all ambiguous things.
The Council of Ministers also stresses the following: The approach of the Council of Ministers stems from its plan to reduce the budget deficit, control useless spending, address squander in many state facilities and take more serious measures to preserve public money.
Stimulating the economy takes place through a series of measures that contribute to growth, attract private investment, create job opportunities, strengthen the national economy and take advantage of the opportunities available through the CEDRE Conference, which in turn will contribute effectively to economic stability, growth and increase the efficiency of infrastructure.
The integrated economic, financial and reform approach of the Council of Ministers requires the contribution and participation of everyone in solutions because in the end this approach is for everyone’s interest.
The Council of Ministers is in the process of approving a number of structural reforms that require giving incentives and exemptions, and approving large and serious investments to revitalize the economy and place it on the path of growth, in addition to procedural and administrative reforms that enhance the productivity of the administration.
The government is keen on the full independence of the Central Bank as the regulating authority of the banking sector, responsible for the monetary policy in Lebanon. The government does not wish under any pretext to interfere in its decisions and policies, within the applicable laws, most importantly the monetary and credit law.
We wanted this statement to be written and clear, especially on the subject of the Central Bank, monetary stability and the safety of our financial situation.
Jarrah answered the questions of journalists:
Question: Is this statement addressed to the Central Bank governor and to the employees who announced a strike?
Jarrah: No. This statement includes the vision of the government. Today, a strike is announced on the basis of rumors or illogical leaks. No one said that the Central Bank budget will be ratified and agreed on in the cabinet. However, this was leaked in a partial manner that led to these results.
The other items are still being discussed, that is articles 54, 60, and 61 so no one should anticipate things. I may have a different opinion from another minister. When it comes to discussion within the Council of Ministers, it does not mean that there is a decision on it. When the decision is issued it will be addressed negatively or positively by the concerned parties.
Question: Not taking any decision on these items be interpreted as if a deal happened?
Jarrah: The meeting was supposed to end at five o’clock, but we ended it at five thirty because we were serious about finalizing these articles. So we should be given enough time to be able to study these items to take the appropriate decision.
Question: Did the issue of the Beirut Stock Exchange affect today’s decisions?
Jarrah: It is not the issue of stock exchange. The Council of Ministers has a draft budget that has to be discussed and approved, but we wanted today to issue this written statement to say that the leaks, rumors, speculations or strikes are not useful.
Question: There is a problem between the government and the banks, and there is a tax on banks in the budget. Have you reached an agreement with them? Is there a unified opinion in the government on this subject?
Jarrah: It is not an issue of negotiations. The government is responsible. There is an article in the budget that is being discussed so the suitable decision is taken. The government as an executive authority is the one that decides on what the Minister of Finance submits.
Question: Is there an agreement with the bank?
Jarrah: In the government each one expresses his point of view, but when the decision is taken by the government, it is a binding decision for all. This does not deprive anyone of the right to discuss any article. We set a clear plan in the cabinet, to reduce the deficit, stop squander and revitalize the economy. Under these three objectives set by the Council of Ministers everything is subject to discussion, but when we take the decision we will take into consideration the national interest and the interest of the Central Bank and its employees, the economy, the treasury and the deficit. We cannot continue with the luxury of spending and we have to deal with it now.
Question: Why were all the articles related to the banks and to the Central Bank set aside?
Jarrah: This is not true. We started discussing the issues related to the Central Bank at 4:45 pm and there was no problem other than the problem of time. Tomorrow we will complete the discussion of these articles at the beginning of the session. This discussion has not been postponed as a result of pressure or strikes.
Question: What about the 7 to 10% tax?
Jarrah: This issue, in addition to the situation of the Central Bank and other institutions and other articles, are all being discussed as a single bundle.
Question: Was there any contact between the government and the Central Bank Governor?
Jarrah: We said in the statement that our doors and the doors of the Prime Minister are open for discussion with any component of the Lebanese society regarding any ambiguity or opinion
Source: NATIONAL NEWS AGENCY