The Lebanese National Bloc party stressed that any aid from donor parties to the government that is done without the latter having made an “acceptable plan” represents a “lack of respect to the will of the Lebanese people, and floating of a government that has destroyed Lebanon and the Lebanese.”
The Bloc presented an open letter to ambassadors and to 16 international organizations detailing a series of internal procedures as alternatives to possible restrictions that donors might impose on Lebanon, restrictions that will affect the middle class and the poor, and that will be a humiliation to Lebanon’s sovereignty.
The Bloc stressed that its main demand is for the donor parties to get “a clear and written commitment of emergency rescue measures with a specific calendar of implementation for those measures from the Lebanese government.”
The following is the full text of the letter:
The difficult spot in which Lebanon currently finds itself is broadly attributed to an accumulation of the past thirty years of ineffective financial, monetary and economic policies, aggravated by vast amounts of wasted funds, corruption and cronyism. The hurdles that our country faces are so overwhelming, that we have no choice but to ask for assistance from the "International Support Group" and "The World Bank.
The "International Support Group" and "The World Bank" have expressed their willingness to support Lebanon to overcome this ordeal.
The “International Support Group” and the “World Bank” have issued statements stipulating a number of measures to be taken in order to provide aid:
- Comprehensive and clear-cut structural reforms.
- Fighting corruption primarily by putting the "National Anti-Corruption Strategy" in effect and issuing the "Anti-Corruption Commission" law.
- Ensuring economic and financial transparency.
- Putting in place effective public procurement laws.
- Fighting tax evasion.
- Ensuring judicial reform and independence
- Administrative reforms.
- Enhancing economic and financial stability.
- Reforming the electricity sector and creating a regulatory authority overseeing and regulating this sector.
- Addressing socio-economic challenges and focusing on economic issues.
These items demonstrate that the International Support Group will only help the Lebanese government if the latter puts in place structural reforms and radically changes the way it manages the country’s finances.
Meanwhile, the parties in power have not responded to the first condition of the international donors, which is to form a government that reflects the political aspirations of the Lebanese people following the October 17 uprising.
Although this uprising forced the Lebanese government to admit its failure and resign; Lebanon now has a new government that still embodies everything citizens disapprove of, from suppressing voices of dissent to failure in taking any categorical overhaul of the system. Furthermore, the government persists in wasting public funds on projects such as the Bisri dam amounting to 625 million USD knowing that there are other priorities that need to be addressed urgently.
The "International Support Group" has clearly expressed its disappointment following a government statement that did not meet international expectations, especially with regards to the budget. The budget review is an essential matter given that a full economic plan should have been drawn up before setting any form of budget.
This is why we have decided to put forward a series of measures for the government to act upon, based on a specific timetable, as opposed to having these measures imposed upon us by the donors that may have adverse effects on our society, and might undermine our sovereignty.
It is important to stress that if the government does not put this plan into action and still receives grants from the “International Support Group”, the “World Bank” or the “International Monetary Fund”, these entities will not represent the will of the Lebanese people. Furthermore, the three entities will also be partners in deepening the crisis and allowing the current political system which has destroyed Lebanon and the Lebanese to aimlessly continue in its tracks.
Our demand is for these entities to obtain a written commitment from the Lebanese government to implement the following as first-step emergency measures, all set within a specific time-frame:
- Forming an Independent Election Management to supervise the parliamentary elections.
- Establishing new rules for political campaign spending.
- Setting up a mechanism for the civil society to be represented in cabinet sessions or consulted periodically.
- Setting up a mechanism for civil society to be represented in parliamentary sessions and parliamentary committees or consulted periodically.
- Engaging in a complete audit of the Central Bank accounts, to improve transparency and a market communication mechanism.
- Developing an economic plan that includes the review of all budgeted items and the elimination of unnecessary expenditures.
- Preventing the Central Bank from financing the state treasury.
- Preventing the investment of mutual funds such as “retirement funds” and “old age funds” in treasury bonds.
- Completing the missing Court of Audit’s final Statements of Accounts of previously approved budgets.
- Updating the structure of divisions for budget lines to enhance transparency.
- Enhancing tax collection, broadening the taxpayer base.
- Strengthening the inspecting body at the Ministry of Finance, ensuring its independence, and criminalizing bribery by updating the laws and issuing the necessary decrees.
- Strengthening border control bodies (air, land, and maritime borders), ensuring their independence and criminalizing bribery by updating the laws and issuing the necessary decrees.
- Imposing a one-time tax on large depositors and banks that benefited from financial engineering and high interest rate; this will contribute to reducing the size of public debt.
- Recapitalizing the banks.
- Immediate investigations into international fund transfers made after October 17 and passing a law that imposes the return of those funds to Lebanon; this will be equitable at a time when banks were holding funds belonging to the rest of the depositors.
- Strengthening the monitoring and supervisory bodies and ensuring their complete independence.
- Issuing implementation decrees to existing laws such as the “Right to Access Information” and the “Corruption Whistle Blower Protection” laws.
- Completing the “Independent Judiciary” law after consultations with the Bar Associations, the State Council and the Supreme Judicial Council.
- Establishing a “National Anti-Corruption Commission” with the participation of civil society movements and the Bar Association.
- Amending the “Civil Proceedings Law” to eliminate administrative immunity and allow the prosecution of public servants.
- Completing the investigation into the illegal hiring that took place after the Public Servants Employment Prevention law in 2015 and ahead of the elections of 2018, and terminating the contracts of those who were appointed unnecessarily and unlawfully.
- Implementing an e-government and the electronic bidding procurement system after updating it and restricting tenders to the "Public Procurement Management Administration".
- Creating a plan to restructure public administration in order to reduce its size and increase its productivity.
- Dissolving councils and funds and transferring all their tasks to the relevant ministries, as they serve as reserves that block large amounts of money from the treasury.
- Immediately creating independent regulating bodies for different sectors.
- Making government the only party authorized to import oil and its derivatives on a country to country basis in order to obtain preferential rates; in the event that this is not possible, then purchases should be made from the market without intermediaries.
- Making the government the only party authorized to import wheat.
- Reevaluating the proposed infrastructure projects of the Cedres Conference, based on its economic viability, its necessity, its environmental impact (Incinerators, Bisri dam, etc.) and equality of its geographical distribution to less developed regions of the country.
- Reevaluating the electricity plans, especially with regards to the proportion of production from renewable energy.
- Reconsidering the direct and indirect taxation structures.
- Allocating an additional 0.5 percentage points of the GDP to spend on a network for social security.
The parties that have been provided with the open letter are the following:
The United Nations, the European Union, the League of Arab States, the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the embassies of Switzerland, Italy, France, Germany, Britain, the United States, Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the Arab Republic of Egypt.