Lebanon News

Highlights of 74-page policy statement

Prime Minister Hassan Diab speaks at the Parliament in Beirut, Feb. 11, 2020. (The Daily Star/Mohamad Azakir)

BEIRUT: There is no possibility of coming up with a salvation plan for Lebanon if interest rates on deposits and loans are not reduced, Prime Minister Hassan Diab said Tuesday.

Showcasing a 74-page PowerPoint presentation that set out the new government’s policy statement, Diab said an emergency plan to lift Lebanon out of the current crisis it is in, would be formed by the end of February.

The policy statement’s language, projects and promises appeared similar to those of previous governments.

Diab’s government divided projects into three phases with some beginning in the first 100 days and others may take up to three years, which is when President Michel Aoun’s term ends.

The government will focus on limited income households and will work as a team of independent experts, “away from political [disputes].”

Speaking to lawmakers, who will later vote on confidence for the government, Diab said the demands of the protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 were not only valid “but necessary.”

This government will protect and respect human rights as well as the right to demonstrate.

The government also vowed to stop arrests, “unless necessary,” in reference to protesters and their right to demonstrate.

In the first 100 days, the government said it would pass laws, which will push ahead an independent judiciary and allow for appointments of judges.

Efforts will be exerted to improve prisons and use alternatives to prison sentences based on the case.

Illegal use of public property will be cracked down upon as well as passing a law to reward whistleblowers who provide information and proof of illegal money earned or illegal transfers abroad.

They will also look to improve the efficiency of the Access to Information law.

On the economic and financial side, the Capital Investment Plan that was formed and passed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government, Diab’s government will study this. They will also look to local banks to use their reserves, which are abroad.

Usage of generic and local medicines will be encouraged and supported and the international community will be asked to help using soft loans or other forms of credit.

The notorious electricity sector in the country will have no new plan as Diab has adopted Hariri’s plan, which was passed on April 8, 2019 but failed to be implemented due to political and sectarian quarrels.

This electricity plan would begin in the first 100 days, the statement said and would last throughout the three-year plan.

For the time being, state subsidies to Electricite du Liban will be reduced and taxes will be increased once output is improvised. A new board of directors will be appointed as well as the formation of a regulatory body for EDL.

Without specifying how, the statement said it would buy fuel for EDL at “better prices.”

New vicegovernors for Banque du Liban’s Gov. Riad Salameh will be appointed, while interest rates on deposits and loans will need to be reduced, the statement said.

A policy will be worked on in order to give priority to Lebanese employees and a way to organize foreign employment will be formed.

Typical language and promises, such as the right to resist Israeli occupation and to liberate occupied Lebanese lands stands, as well as the need to support Lebanese security forces in combatting terrorism and Israeli espionage.

Continued support for the U.N. peacekeeping force in Lebanon is a must, the statement said.

It also committed to respect U.N. Resolution 1701, which put an end to the July 2006 War between Hezbollah and Israel.

Turning to Lebanon’s involvement or siding in foreign conflicts, the new government said it would adopt a policy of dissociation and steer clear of those that could harm relations with Arab nations.

Lebanon has adopted this stance multiple times since the outbreak for the Syrian war, but Hezbollah continues to participate in the neighboring war, and indirectly in other regional conflicts.

Diab’s government will look to “strengthen” relations with Arab and “brotherly” nations, including the International Support Group for Lebanon.

They hope to strike a partnership with the European Union as well, the statement said, without elaborating.

 

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