The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri said that what we have seen since yesterday is the real pain of the Lebanese, because of the political behavior in the country, which delays solutions and decisions and disrupts the state for every problem, while people were waiting for the government and the politicians to work seriously. But we only gave them political arguments and debates.
He said: “When I tried to implement solutions, I faced all types of obstacles, whether on the subject of electricity or reducing the deficit or appointing governing bodies and councils.
Hariri set a 72-hour deadline for himself. He said: I will give myself a very short time. Either our partners in the settlement and the government give a clear, final and decisive answer, which convinces me, the Lebanese, the international community and all those expressing their anger in the street, that there is a decision from everyone to reform and stop squander and corruption, or I will have something different to say.
Hariri made the remarks in a televised address last night to the Lebanese from his office at the Grand Serail.
This is the text of the address:
I have always been frank with the Lebanese at all crucial moments because after all, we are and will stay one family, called Lebanon. and today I address them directly to tell them the truth for despite everything, we were and shall remain one big family called Lebanon.
The country is going through a difficult time unprecedented in our history and I hope that the Lebanese people would hear my frank words away from political outbidding that you are seeing on screens since yesterday.
The pain of the Lebanese people that we saw since yesterday is a real pain. I feel your pain, recognize it and I am with every peaceful move to express it.
But what matters is how to treat it and find solutions to it. Because this is what the Lebanese people have entrusted us with.
Although this pain exploded in the street yesterday, I have been trying for 3 years to treat its reasons and find real solutions. For more than 3 years I told all our partners in Lebanon, that our country has been exposed to circumstances beyond its will, and it is spending, year after year, more than its income. The debt has become so great that we can no longer endure.
Electricity costs the state two billion dollars a year and we are committed to the salaries scale but apparently it exceeded all expectations and will cost about two additional billion dollars per year. This is added to the debts interest and squander.
I said that the solution is to reduce the difference between the annual expenditure and the annual income in order to alleviate the need for new debts at a first stage.
At the same time, I told everyone that the real solution is to increase the income of the country, by restoring the growth of the economy, which will create job opportunities for the youth.
As we cannot implement this solution with our sole capacities, we agreed with all the partners in the country on reforms and informed our brothers and friends in the international community of this agreement. Here I would like to point out that reforms do not mean taxes. Reforms mean to change the way Lebanon works. We cannot live in 2019 with laws passed in the 1950s and 1960s.
I spoke with our friends in the international community and asked them in return, to help finance the solution, by pumping new money and a new life in the Lebanese economy. They agreed based on these reforms to commit $ 11 billion to finance the solution. This is what we called the CEDRE Conference.
I asked our partners in the country and the government: Do you have any problem with this? They said no. I asked them: do you have another solutions? They also said no. It means that no one put forward another solution. As I tried to implement, I encountered all types of obstacles, starting from the formation of government that took weeks, months and seasons!
I talked about electricity reform, since electricity represents two billion dollars a year. I have been holding nonstop meetings since the formation of the government and when I finally reached the end of line, someone came and said: this cannot work.
We started with the first direct step, which is reducing the deficit. We cut the expenses to the maximum, and asked how can we increase the income.
We held meetings, committees and contacts, to finally reach an agreement, and as we reach the finish line, someone came and said: this cannot work.
We came to the appointments of governing bodies and councils, which are the first steps in reform, and also, it didn’t work.
Instead of focusing on the treatment of the deficit and reforms, we spend time settling accounts between us, at the expense of time and people, settling accounts with other countries, which we had agreed to encourage to help us and invest in our economy.
The Consumer protection authority: cannot work.
Each Ministerial Committee has to have at least 9 Ministers so everyone can be satisfied.
A government of national unity, we get it. But the committees as well are National Unity Committees? And the result is that nothing works! How?
Any people that faces a political performance on the image of what you saw for months and years would have the same angry reaction. The anger, of course, is the result of living conditions, but mainly because of delaying solutions and decisions and disrupting the state for every problem
Maybe there are internal actors feeling happy with what is happening, that are encouraging groups that went to the street and joined the protests of the youth that are against all of us. And maybe there is an external scheme to sabotage the situation, or regional changes, and if the situation steadies in Syria, let Lebanon become instable!
But this does not eliminate the fact that there is real pain that exploded yesterday.
People gave us many chances during 3 years.
The first time, the second time, the third time, and the tenth time. They waited for us to do something, to start the reform, the projects and find job opportunities for young men and women, but no one cared and they all preferred to blame one another.
Let us remember the days when the country was disrupt, during the formation of the government, the quarrels and the problems. How much did it cost in money, economy and growth decline? The Lebanese were waiting for a serious work from the government and all politicians. But we only offered them political arguments and debates.
I don’t want to outbid anyone, and I know that many want to accuse Saad Hariri and turn him into a scapegoat just like they did in the past with martyr Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. But this is something we can deal with and there will come a time to talk about it.
What matters to me today is to talk to people frankly and tell them how the anger was planted in their hearts day after day. Everyone knows that I went to the political settlement so that the country would not face a new civil conflict. I decided to turn the table on myself so it does not turn on the country. For more than four years, I have been rotating corners and visiting countries to open for Lebanon opportunities for support, assistance and investment.
But after what happened yesterday, I started seeing things differently. Not through eyes of remorse about the settlement. I do not regret having done my duties to protect the country and restore respect of the constitutional institutions.
People sent us a message, and they have been waiting for months for us to send them a message and tell them how the country can get out of chaos, squander and corruption.
We have been waiting for months for our partners in the country and in the government, to implement the solution that we agreed on. But we can no longer wait. If anyone believes that he has another solution, we would have preferred that he told us before. And even if he decides now, for special reasons, to inform us of another solution, we tell him that there is no need for people to be in pain. There is no need for the street to explode. There is no need for the people to clash with the army or the security forces, God forbids.
Let him come, and we organize a smooth transition. Let him be in charge and implement the solution that he found and we wish him luck.
But most importantly, I say: Whatever the solution is, we no longer have time.
I personally, give myself a very short time. Either our partners in the settlement and the government give a clear, decisive and definitive answer, that convinces me, the Lebanese people, the international community, and all those who are protesting in the street today, that there is a decision from all to reform and stop squander and corruption, or I will have something different to say other decisions. I repeat that it will be a very short time, and this must be clear to everyone. If you wonder how long the very short time is, it is 72 hours.
Source: National News Agency