BEIRUT: A delegation from the US Task Force for Lebanon stressed the importance of “putting in place a social economy program before it is too late”.
The call came after the delegation – accompanied by US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea – met with several Lebanese officials on Monday.
Edward Gabriel, head of the ATFL, said: “Time is running out and the government must speed up laws and policies, carry out the reforms required and take the necessary steps to meet the needs of citizens to advance negotiations with the International Monetary Bank. Funds. We need a partner, and that partner is the government, which must act quickly to achieve what is expected of it.
The United States provided more than $700 million in aid to Lebanon last year, he added, and President Joe Biden “did not forget Lebanon” during his visit to the Middle East.
Biden spoke about several issues affecting Lebanon and stressed the integrity of Lebanese territories during his talks.
The US call came as court workers decided to join a strike by public sector employees on Monday, causing Lebanese courts to come to a standstill.
Public sector employees have been on strike for about a month demanding higher wages and higher transport allowances.
Court aides said they have ceased work permanently and will not make any exceptions, either for urgent matters or public prosecutions, and will no longer issue notices on behalf of departments. and courts.
Joseph Talj, head of justice worker commissions, said: “Since the crisis began in 2019, justice workers have seen how miserable people’s lives have become and are now suffering like them to make ends meet. They can no longer provide for their family’s needs in terms of food, adequate education or health care.
“How can we work in courthouses where fairness, equality, justice and fairness do not exist? Either we work to live a decent life with our children, or we stay at home and die of hunger and disease.
The same demand prompted retired military personnel to stage a sit-in on Monday morning outside the Baalbek branch of the Banque du Liban, barring employees from entering.
They stressed that pay increases must include all employees, especially military personnel, serving and retired.
The Lebanese pound has lost 95% of its value since it began to depreciate in 2019.
The minimum wage is equivalent to 23 dollars according to the black market exchange rate of 29,500 Lebanese pounds. Before the financial collapse, it was $444.
With the phasing out of subsidies on fuel and medicine, and the inability of health and social security institutions to support the hospitalization of public sector employees, workers went on strike because they did not couldn’t afford a minimum standard of living.
Speaking on behalf of the retired Armed Forces personnel, Imad Awada said, “Further protests will be held in different regions until the decision to change judges’ salaries based on the rate of LBP 8,000/ USD is withdrawn, or until all public employees are included. in the decision, especially serving and retired military, in addition to improving benefits.
The ongoing strike is paralyzing most official state services, especially the finance ministry and property services.
The strikers urged the ministerial committee in charge of managing public facilities to hold a meeting led by the acting prime minister and prime minister-designate Najib Mikati to follow up on this issue.
Parliamentary committees met to approve bills that fall within the framework of reforms demanded by the IMF in light of the government stalemate that has been going on since mid-May to present them in a legislative session in determine later.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan, Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, announced the adoption of a law modifying bank secrecy to prevent tax evasion, fight against corruption, finance terrorism and illicit enrichment.
The committee has yet to complete the study of the 2022 budget which, according to Kanaan, required “the government to present its study on the unification of the exchange rate, especially since taxes, duties and wages in the State are always calculated on the basis of the exchange rate”. of LBP/USD 1,507, excluding judges’ salaries.
There is also dissatisfaction with calls to split the municipality of Beirut into one council for the Christian part of the capital and one for the rest.
Deputies of the Free Patriotic Movement have proposed a bill on this subject. MPs from the Lebanese Forces Party and the Kataeb Party argued that the proposal served to “treat all neighborhoods of Beirut equally”.
But there were strong reactions to the idea.
The Grand Mufti of Lebanon, Sheikh Abdel Latif Derian, said: “This cannot happen. This would bring us back to the East/West division of Beirut. This is unacceptable and threatens the Islamic-Christian coexistence that we have preserved and will preserve at all costs. A government must be formed as soon as possible, especially as collapse and paralysis invade state institutions.
Derian stressed that officials must shoulder their responsibilities and form a rescue government because nothing else will pave the way for electing a new president, implementing reforms and fighting corruption. .
Beirut MP Ibrahim Mneimneh also commented on the split proposal.
“Beirut’s size and role demands an elected local authority with the ability to govern and make decisions, not divided sectarian municipalities that seek to prioritize narrow interests over those of the city. Populist proposals do not solve the crisis, but can create a bigger one.