The Lebanese government at its session Jan 25 under P.Hrawi at Baabda palace has approved the fiscal budget for 1997, increasing the total figures by 233 billion L.L as proposed by the Parliament committee of finance. Sametime it has cancelled the electricity subsidies totalling 200 billion L.L, as such the total budget increase would be 33 billion L.L, something equivalent to 0.5 percent of the overall figure, bringing deficit forecast for 1997 to an estimated 37.7 percent, that is equivalent to L.L 6,433 bn. The information minister did not specify, after government session, what sectors will benefit from the additional funds. The minister of electricity had submitted a detailed plan on collecting the bills, and made definite proposals to improve collections all over Lebanon, something will help to make for the funds lost as a result of cancellation of subsidy, information minister said. He denied that there will be increase on fuel prices in order to raise the money which will be spent on new pay scales for teachers.
Prime minister Rafic Hariri said Jan 26 at an Iftar "some areas in Lebanon do not pay bills and others pay, and the government is paying the bills of those who are not paying through the L.L 200 bn subsidy, now this will stop and consumers must all pay. There will be no increase in electricity tariff whatsoever but a more efficient billing and collection of dues would be imposed to make sure that all consumers pay for the service".
The official denial of an imminent increase of the electricity tariff did not relax neither the electricity administration nor the citizens. The cancellation of the L.L 200bn means that the government will not pay cost of the fuel oil used for the production of the power, and the coming bills of the fuel will be paid directly by the electricity administration, which now faces the most serious problem, that is the illegal consumption-connections which represents some 34 percent of the total production capacity. To resolve such problem, there should be special security squads to remove illegal connections and to lift the political cover. An official source in the electricity administration called on the parliament to approve a proposed bill dated Dec 1993, which stipulated severe punishments on the illegal consumption of electricity, water and telephone services. The source added that if the collections do not improve and illegal consumption actually halted it is inevitable to increase the tariff. The official National News Agency said it is possible that the government will think to enlist the help of army conscripts in collecting the bills.
Contrary to the flood of denials to increases taxes or charges or fees of the services, the defense minister Mohsen Dalloul has said Jan 26 at a rally in Rashaya that " we have to cover the salary scales, so what is better than imposing fuel tax, at a time the public transportation is going to be available across the country. Whoever is irked by the petrol tax may turn to the public transportation. What else can we do, print money, that's a crime, or to borrow money, that is another crime".
News reports in Beirut said the government, in advocation of its fiscal budget, is bargaining on achieving a surplus in 1997 it has estimated at L.L 400 bn, but sametime it referred the below estimated deficit in 1996 to regional atmospheres and the April assault by Israel, recalling that Lebanese officials are always hinting that Israel intends to launch an offensive against Lebanon.
The Central Bank vice governor Nasser Saidi declared yesterday saying " foreign reserves have increased to more than $4bn in the past three weeks, something unusual but not exceptional. The increase reflects large inflows and conversions to Lebanese Lira, as everybody is trying to get into the one and two years treasury bills, including foreign investors and for the high interest rate .
The money has flooded into the bills market and pushed up the Lira. In order to stop the Lira rising up too quickly the central bank is buying back the foreign currency and selling Lebanese pounds, this is what added to the reserves". He said. The Lebanese pound is still rising up despite falling of the interest rates on bills, the pound rate has increased up by 2.5 percent in 1996. Mr Saidi, who is vice president of the central bank, attributed the rise up to the boosted confidence and the Friends of Lebanon Forum which contributed to this rise. He said the foreign reserves at the central bank, excluding reserves of the commercial banks, represent just over half the bank's total reserves, and the rest is in the form of 10 million ounces of gold deposited in the US federal Reserve Fort Knox depository .
News report in Beirut said the US terms to lift travel ban include ensuring security in the airport vicinity, namely at the road to airport where there are too much crossways and subways and the Americans want it almost closed and links airport directly with the commercial downtown and suburbs.
For that, the current rehabilitation of the airport and new runways include a main road, with a tunnel at some segments and a highway which links the airport with the Ring crossway in the heart of Beirut. This project will finish in June.
The Americans too demand that security men in the airport should have one style uniform and an identification card should be shown on everyone working at the airport. They demand also that the civil cars should not enter the aircraft's zone, in exception of cars allowed to and which should bear written letters identifying it and specifying nature of work. They also suggest that as long security is ensured strictly around the airport, then there is no need to security elements to stand by the aircrafts ,with their guns, when passengers embark down or in the aircrafts.
The Three Iraqi diplomats, detained in Lebanon since 1994, were released on Saturday and escorted by Lebanese security men to the Iraqi Syrian borders. News agencies think that the return of diplomats to their country via Syria signals syrian approval of the Lebanese decision to release them and also signals the possible resumption of the diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Iraq. The analysis says Syria is signaling to a rapprochement with Iraq by approving a rapprochement between Lebanon and Iraq, and such is a Syrian message to USA that it should exert more pressure on Israel in peace talks, otherwise Syria will adopt more firm policy and get closer to Iraq.
The Marriott hotel management affirmed that its financial manager, the Jordanian national Dirar el Karmi, has been released and in good health staying now at his home. His wife declined to speak to reporters and said her husband left to Amman. The Lebanese judicial authorities has said earlier that he was detained by the Syrian security men with their permission in accordance to a bilateral security agreement.
The family of the Iraqi murdered dissident Taleb Suheil Al Tamimi issued a statement Saturday denouncing the release of the Iraqi diplomats, saying the diplomatic immunity is not covering the actions that do not belong to diplomacy. The statement added that the Lebanese decision to release the diplomats without trial is a violation, on official level, of the UN resolution 687 ,which warns Iraq of any terrorist action. It also said that what comforts the family is that the Lebanese judiciary could obtain the confessions of the diplomats who admitted they committed the crime.
The Lebanese foreign ministry S.G Zafer El Hassan handed Saturday a strong worded memorandum to the Jordanian ambassador in Beirut. A Lebanese diplomatic source said " Lebanon adheres to the international agreements and the commitments toward diplomatic representation in Lebanon, and it is keen not to meddle in other countries affairs and expects the others not to meddle in its internal affairs". The Jordanian ambassador left to Amman Saturday after he was handed the memorandum and no explanation was given on his departure.
Pope Jean Paul and Catholicos Aram Keshishian, head of the Armenian House of Cecilia, stressed Lebanon's role in promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue and the M.E need for a just and comprehensive peace, in a joint statement issued on Saturday. The meeting was the latest effort in John Paul's drive to bring Christians closer together as the millennium nears.
Patriarch Sfair told his visitors Sunday that "we want the best relations with Syria in the framework of the Lebanese invariables which are known to everybody". Responding to a question on contacts held recently with the Syrian officials, he said" I read such reports same as you in the newspapers, but so far as I know I did not ask anyone and there are personal contacts by some personalities. We have nothing to hide and what we announce or say is before everyone".
Minister of electricity and Hydraulic resources Elie Hubeika, at a loyalty rally organised by friends of Elie Hubeika and attended by estimated 15 thousands, at city hall in Sin El Fil, gave his address on various topics.
He said the Taif agreement was a compromise that should be enforced in all its articles and die afterwards, to pave the way for the rise of the nation's true constitution and that of modern state. "The Taif was temporary security solution not a constitution. The constitution should be derived from the nation's aspirations not from some factions. It should represent the people's desires not the interests of self styled leaders. Called for the abolition of sectarianism to achieve the national unity and the civil society. We are living in a quasi state. Divorced the past and the fighting.
Blaming the Christians and arguing how we can we complain about the absence when we withdrew voluntarily." Mr Hubeika said.
1. Shifting the health insurance from a private company to the social security.
2. Pay a thirteen month bonus.
3. Adjust scholarships to match the rise of schools tuitions.
4. Pay full indemnities on time.
5. to carry on the promotions after a study is conducted.
Lebanon won over Astonia 2-0 in a friendly football match Sunday at Burj Hammoud stadium. The coach of the Lebanese team said he has expected his team to win game by five goals.Babkin Malikian and Wael Nazha hit the two goals. It is the fourth victory to Lebanon in its nine friendly matches since 8th of Sept.
Lebanon and Jordan football teams are going to play two friendly matches, the first will take place in Beirut on 2nd Feb and the second match in Amman on 6th Feb, the Jordanian team letter to Lebanese counterpart said.
Ghazir club won over Qalamoun 3-0 in the 9th state of the championship of Lebanon volleyball tournament.
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