The President of the Council of Ministers Saad Hariri chaired today at the Grand Serail the meeting of the ministerial committee in charge of drafting the ministerial statement.
The Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil, the Minister of Youth and Sports Mohammad Fneish, the Minister of Education Akram Chehayeb, the Minister of State for Presidency Affairs Salim Jreissati, the Minister of Public Works Youssef Fenianos, the Minister of Information Jamal Jarrah, the Minister of State for Administrative Development Affairs May Chidiac, the Minister of Economy Mansour Bteich, the Minister of State for Displaced Affairs Saleh Gharib, the Minister of Labor Kamil Abou Sleiman, the Secretary General of the Council of Ministers Fouad Fleifel and the Director General of the Presidency of the Republic Antoine Choucair attended.
After the meeting, Information Minister Jamal Jarrah said: "We completed the final reading of the ministerial statement's final version, after a few minor amendments today. They were minor linguistic modifications that did not change the substance. We are waiting for the Presidents of the Republic and of the Council of Ministers to set a meeting of the Council of Ministers, most likely tomorrow, if the time of His Excellency allows it, so we can head to the Parliament next week to discuss and approve the ministerial statement of the new government."
He added: "The atmosphere today was very positive, there were no problem on any article, because the phrasing was finalized yesterday".
Jarrah explained that the Lebanese Forces representatives expressed two reservations that were not adopted by the committee.
Question: So you did not agree with the Lebanese Forces?
Jarrah: The deliberations of the Committee have a kind of secrecy, but at the request of Minister Chidiac, her reservations were stated. At the same time, the Committee decided after the deliberations to adopt the wording as mentioned in the Ministerial statement.
Question: Regarding the reforms and the economic situation, was there a discussion about the possibility of imposing new taxes on the citizens later, since there is always talk about difficult and unpopular decisions?
Jarrah: It is the approach of the economic situation that took a long time in the discussion. We are committed to reducing the budget deficit by increasing revenues and reducing expenditures. Increasing revenues does not mean increasing taxes. Perhaps the expansion of tax collection increases revenues, as well as increasing the number of taxpayers and improving the economic situation and growth. There are many sources to increase revenues without resorting to taxes. No one mentioned taxation. During all deliberations, the concern was to increase the size of the economy, reduce expenditures and thus reduce the deficit.
Question: Can we say that you removed all obstacles and bumps such as the McKinsey plan from the ministerial statement, in preparation to implement the decisions of the CEDRE conference?
Jarrah: McKinsey is not a bump .This institution has been commissioned by the Lebanese government to conduct studies. It conducted a serious and real study on the Lebanese economy. It gave us its opinion, and the Council of Ministers will see what it can take from these views to apply for the benefit of the economy.
Question: Did you mention it in the statement?
I have reservations on the word bumps, and I confirm for the third and fourth time that the approaches were all positive, for the interest of the country. When each party was expressing its opinion concerning a certain point, it was keen on the country and to accelerate the completion of the ministerial statement and tackle the problems faced by the Lebanese on all subjects, including the restructuring of institutions and ministries. I prepared a paragraph on the abolition of the Ministry of Information and its replacement by the National Media Council.
Question: Did any of the parties have reservations on CEDRE and its reforms, specifically Hezbollah?
Jarrah: No, sometimes the wording takes some time, but everyone agrees on it. This issue was approved by the Council of Ministers. As for detailed projects and priorities, they definitely need a decision by the Council of Ministers.
Question: There were similar articles in the previous statement and the government did not abide by them, such as combating squandering and corruption and reducing the budget deficit. Are there new directives from Prime Minister Hariri or is there a new mentality? What guarantees today the application of all this?
Jarrah: We certainly have a difficult economic situation and our budget is suffering from a large deficit. Deficit reduction, economic development, fighting corruption and stopping squandering are no longer a luxury, but an urgent necessity for the government. Today I see sincere intentions, and there is a decision from all parties to save the economic situation.
Question: Was there a disagreement on the issue of the Syrian refugees?
Jarrah: Dealing with the issue of the Syrian refugees touched on the basic issue. All the Lebanese agree on the return of the refugees to safe areas and to approach the matter in the manner agreed upon by all Lebanese.
Question: The issue of a political solution was not mentioned?
Jarrah: We did not mention the words political solution nor voluntary return. We said the return to safe areas, and we adopted some words that will be approved by the Council of Ministers and we will talk about them in due time.
Source: National News Agency