Caretaker Prime Minister, Hassan Diab, received the President of Lebanon’s Syndicate of Press Editors, Joseph Kossaifi and Syndicate council members Nafez Kawwas, Georges Chahine, Wassef Awada, Scarlet Haddad and Youmna Chakar Gharib, in the presence of PM Advisor, Khodor Taleb.
During a small talk with the delegation, Premier Diab said that the government had been engaged, since its formation, in a harsh battle on various fronts. Never before has a government faced calamities, problems and crises of such a magnitude and pace during six months and even during the caretaker period; it has also borne great burdens as a result of wrong financial, economic and monetary decisions taken by previous governments.
PM Diab stressed that the first crisis facing the government was Lebanon’s default on payment of the Eurobonds, adding: “We tried, through dialogue with banks and the Central Bank of Lebanon, which owned at that time 75 percent of the shares, to resort to the option of debt rescheduling and avoid defaulting on payment. However, we were later surprised that some banks sold their shares abroad, and therefore we could no longer reschedule the debt; we were left with two options: either to pay or to declare default, so we decided in the Council of Ministers, with the approval of the three presidents and of monetary and financial stakeholders, to stop debt repayments and resort to debt restructuring. Then, we elaborated the economic and financial reform plan that was praised by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union, and we decided to embark on negotiations with the IMF; afterwards, we approved several fundamental reforms as a practical translation of the financial and economic reform plan, and we took several decisions in terms of fighting corruption”.
Premier Diab revealed that “we had no choice but to resign after the Beirut port explosion, but I asked the ministers who wanted to resign the day after the explosion to wait for several days pending the approval of some decisions in the Council of Ministers to redress the families of the martyrs, the wounded and those affected by the tragedy, and I promised them that I would announce the government’s resignation on the 10th of August”. PM Diab recapped that the administrative (ministerial) investigation committee set up by the government before its resignation elaborated and adopted several recommendations, namely:
1- Referring the case from the military court to the judicial council so that the families of the martyrs can file personal criminal lawsuits to realize their rights, and which is not possible in the military court;
2- Considering the victims of the port blast as martyrs, and equating them with the martyrs of the Lebanese army;
3- Approving the one hundred billion LBP advance;
4- Placing the employees of the first category – if they are arrested – at the disposal of the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, and placing the employees of the second category and below at the disposal of the competent minister;
5- Allowing the wounded to benefit from social security.
Regarding the reasons for the government’s inability to remain operational, Premier Diab made it clear that any prime minister, no matter how strong and clean-handed he is, will not be able to succeed in the absence of political consensus and support from various parties, adding that “it is not possible to choose fully independent ministers without consulting Parliamentary blocs that will give confidence in the parliament, but the current government is the closest, in Lebanon’s history, to the requirements of a technocratic government”.
Regarding the rationalization of subsidies, PM Diab recalled that the government had sent four scenarios to the joint parliamentary committees to be discussed with the ministers, MPs and the Central Bank of Lebanon so as to choose the most appropriate solution. However, since the parliament has demanded a unified scenario, the need for the financing card became urgent to compensate for the additional costs that the citizen would incur.
Premier Diab also stressed the need to form a government as soon as possible and added: “If we had formed a government nine months ago, we would not have reached this difficult situation.” He reiterated that he would not violate the constitution by holding cabinet sessions during the caretaker period and in light of the current political divisions.
Regarding the decree for amending Maritime Borders’ Decree number 6433, the Prime Minister said: “I have signed it, and it is more likely that the President of the Republic will sign it.”
PM Diab concluded by saying: “People’s deposits will not disappear, and Lebanon is not the first country to falter.”