Intensive Parliamentary Discussion as Saniora Responds to Economic and Local Issues
Lebanon”s legislature held its fourth session on Thursday, cabinet ministers responded to questions and concerns that were posed by members of parliament to Prime Minister Foaud Saniora”s cabinet yesterday.
First to speak was Interior Minister Ziad Baroud, who told parliament that serious measures have been adopted for limiting car theft in the country.
He admitted to the problem with the current mechanic inspection center on vehicles, but went on to add: "We shall open two new centers within six months."
Baroud pointed that recent statistics have shown a 55% reduction in traffic jams.
On the issue of monitoring the 2009 legislative elections, Baroud said: "We received a letter from former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his society expressing his desire for monitoring the elections."
Baroud added that a similar request has been received from the European Union, saying cabinet would discuss the issue.
PM Saniora was last to respond to questions. He pointed that the majority of the support received by Lebanon following the July 2006 war, was in form of aid as chosen by donor nations.
He said that despite the wounding accusations made against government regarding the removal of the effects of the Israeli aggression, distressed citizens only found aid coming from the Lebanese state, some Arab countries and Lebanese political parties.
He named Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Iraq being the most donating nations.
Saniora added that financial grants coming from these states have been deposited into credit accounts at the Central Bank.
PM Saniora said: "Despite all the donated aid, this was not enough for covering all needs and expenses resulting from the Israeli aggression."
He explained that due to the lack of available funds and high cost government was forced to borrow from the Central Bank. Adding that this was guaranteed by Saudi funds at the Central Bank.
PM Saniora said: "what is strange is that despite all this government effort some continue to ignore these facts and issue harmful accusations."
As for the second phase of compensation, he said this would not be possible today due to the lack of supplamentary Saudi funds at the Central Bank.
He estimated High Relief Council (HRC) deficit following the Israeli aggression at U.S.$424 million by the end of 2008. saying this does not include compounded losses emanating from the assassinations, bomb attacks and for rebuilding the Nahr el-Bared Palestinian refugee camp.
Regarding administrative and judicial appointments, Saniora pointed to difficulties stemming from existing differences and imposed vetoes that continue to hinder this process.
He reiterated his government”s position in seeking to maintain financial stability and implementing Paris-3 articles while responding to regional needs inside Lebanon.
The continued talk regarding property sale to foreigners, Saniora said would harm Lebanon”s image.
Regarding criticism made against the 1989 Taef accord Saniora said: "I tell those who claim the Taef accord came as the result of duress on Lebanon, that the accord silenced the sound of artillery in the country."
Saniora added saying: "There are no conflict of powers between the presidency and the premiership. We are keen on safeguarding presidential powers. "
In relation the current international financial crisis, Saniora provided a two step solution for Lebanon saying: "There are two ways to deal with the international financial crisis. The first is to regain trust in the Lebanese banking system and the other is to adopt steps to activate the economic system."
He also reminded parliamentarians that the path for activating the economic system depend on taking steps that do not contradict with economic growth.
Saniora stressed stability is a priority in these times.