Beirut: A delegation from the US Task Force for Lebanon has stressed the importance of “establishing a socioeconomic program before it is too late”.
The call came after talks with several Lebanese officials on Monday – accompanied by the delegation – along with US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea.
ATFL chief Edward Gabriel said: “Times are moving fast, and the government must accelerate laws and policies, carry out necessary reforms, and address the needs of citizens in order to advance dialogue with the international currency.” Necessary steps must be taken to meet the fund. We need a partner, and that partner is the government, which has to act quickly to get what is required from it.”
The US provided more than $700 million in aid to Lebanon last year, he said, and President Joe Biden “did not forget about Lebanon” during his Middle East visit.
Biden mentioned a number of issues affecting Lebanon and stressed the integrity of Lebanese territories during their meetings.
The US call came after judicial assistants decided to join a public sector workers’ strike on Monday, leading to the closure of courts in Lebanon.
Public sector employees have been on strike for almost a month demanding hike in salary and hike in transport allowance.
Judicial assistants said they have stopped working permanently and would not make any exceptions, whether for urgent matters or public prosecution, and would no longer issue notices on behalf of departments and courts.
Joseph Talaj, an official on the committees of judicial assistants, said: “Ever since the crisis started in 2019, judicial assistants are seeing how unfortunate people’s lives have become and now they are suffering as they make a living. . They can no longer provide food, proper education, or health care for their families.
“How can we function in palaces of justice where equality, equality, justice and fairness do not exist? Either we work with our children to live a good life, or we stay at home and die of hunger and diseases.”
The same demand prompted retired members of the armed forces to stage a sit-in in front of the Baalbek branch of the Banque du Liban on Monday morning, preventing the workers from entering.
He stressed that there is a need for a pay hike for all employees, especially military personnel, to join service and retire.
The Lebanese pound has lost 95 percent of its value since it began depreciating in 2019.
The minimum wage at the black market exchange rate of LBP29,500 is equivalent to $23. Before the financial collapse, this amounted to $444.
Due to the gradual lifting of subsidies on fuel and medicines, and the inability of health and social security institutions to provide hospitalizations for public sector workers, workers went on strike because they were unable to afford a minimum standard of living.
Speaking on behalf of retired Armed Forces personnel, Imad Awada said: “Until the decision to revise the salaries of judges based on LBP 8,000/USD rate is withdrawn, or until all public servants are included By then, more protests will be organized in various sectors. The decision will be taken, apart from improving benefits, especially to military personnel in service and retirement.”
The ongoing strike has paralyzed most of the official departments of the state, especially the finance ministry and real estate departments.
The striking people urged the ministerial committee managing the public facilities to hold a meeting under the chairmanship of caretaker PM and designated PM Najib Mikati to follow up on the issue.
Parliamentary committees are convening to approve bills falling within the framework of reforms sought by the IMF in light of the government deadlock since mid-May so that they can be introduced in a legislative session to be scheduled later.
MP Ibrahim Kanan, chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, announced the adoption of a law amending banking secrecy to prevent tax evasion, combat corruption, terrorism financing and illegal promotion.
The committee has not yet finished the study of the 2022 budget, which, according to Kanan, “requires the government to submit its study on the integration of the exchange rate, especially since taxes, fees and salaries are still calculated at the state rate.” 1,507 LBP/USD with the exception of judges’ salaries.
There is also discontent over calls to split the municipality of Beirut into a council for the Christian part of the capital and a council for the rest.
Lawmakers from the Free Patriotic Movement have proposed a bill on the subject. Lawmakers from the Lebanese Force Party and Kataab Party argued that the resolution “treated all Beirut neighbourhoods equally.”
But there was a sharp reaction to the idea.
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdel Latif Darian, said: “It cannot happen. This will bring us back to the East/West Beirut division. This is unacceptable and threatens the Islamic-Christian coexistence that we have preserved and will preserve at all costs. There is a need to form a government as soon as possible, especially since the collapse and paralysis of state institutions is rampant. ,
Darian stressed that officials needed to assume their responsibilities and form a defense government because nothing else would pave the way for electing a new president, implementing reforms and fighting corruption.
Beirut MP Ibrahim Manimaneh also commented on the partition resolution.
“Beirut’s size and role require an elected local authority with the ability to govern and make decisions, not communally divided municipalities that seek to prioritize the narrow interests of the city. Populist proposals do not address the crisis , but can make a big one.”