SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 19 September 2021, Sunday |

First cabinet session convenes at Baabda Palace, forms committee to draft ministerial statement

President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, affirmed that “We are facing major national and historical responsibilities to activate the role of the state and its institutions and restore confidence in them”.

“It is required to find urgent solutions to address living conditions of citizens, and to launch a quick workshop to put Lebanon on the path of rescue, recovery and advancement” President Aoun said, stressing that the government should work as one cohesive, cooperative team to implement a rescue program and focus effort to achieve the supreme national interest and citizen-interest.

President Aoun also recommended that ministers “Talk less and work more”, pointing out that “We will face great difficulties and we will work to overcome and devise possible solutions”. The President said that initiating programs is a prerequisite for the international community to proceed with the mechanisms of support and provision of aid. “Reforms are the cornerstone for rebuilding the state. Without them it is impossible to save”.

The President wished the ministerial committee to include in the ministerial statement, in addition to national constants, a set of ideas and basic topics, foremost of which is the recovery plan approved by the previous government, the reforms mentioned in the French initiative, holding parliamentary elections on time and completion of ongoing investigations of the Beirut Port explosion, in addition to proceeding with the anti-corruption plan, especially the initiation of forensic audit and completion of an electricity plan.

For his part, Premier, Najib Mikati, asserted that “We all have to sacrifice, and the country requires exceptional measures. The government will work for the sake of Lebanon and all the Lebanese. It will not distinguish between those who are in the opposition or pro-regime, those who announced their support for us and those who didn’t, and who will give confidence in the next few days and who will not. We will exercise our roles under the roof of law”.

PM Mikati also pointed out that the situation is difficult, “But nothing is impossible when intentions are clear”, calling for cooperation among all. The Prime Minister also revealed that he will intensify cabinet sessions and include important topics which have a direct impact on daily citizen-lives. PM Mikati called on the Public Works’ minister to give immediate directives to clean all highways and roads before rain. Mikati also called on the Education Minister to hold emergency meetings to complete the plan to start the school year, stressing that “This is a more than urgent file, and it is not permissible for our children to stay out of schools for the third year”.

Positions of President Aoun and PM Mikati came during the first session of the new government, which was held this morning at Baabda Palace, during which the ministerial committee was formed to draft the ministerial statement.

Statement:

Information Minister, George Kordahi, read the following statement:

“The Cabinet convened today in its first sessionafter formation. The session was headed by President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun, and attended by Prime Minister Najib Mikati and the ministers.

At the beginning, the President of the Republic spoke welcoming the Prime Minister and the ministers, considering that what brought the ministers together in this session was confidence and the ability to work, which necessitates that they always expedite the sessions to accomplish what is required in the next stage.

“This is the fourth government in my presidential term, which was formed after 13 months of the caretaker government. During this period, the situation worsened: economically, financially, monetary and socially…and the living conditions of citizens declined to unprecedented levels. Prices – the devaluation of the national currency – fuel – hospitalization – medicine” President Aoun added.

The President of the Republic said “We are facing major national and historical responsibilities to activate the role of the state and its institutions and restore confidence in them. We must not waste time as we no longer have the luxury of slowness and procrastination. Urgent solutions are required to address the living conditions of citizens, and launch a quick workshop to put Lebanon on the path to rescue, recovery and advancement”.

The President also indicated that “The government must work as one homogeneous and cooperative team to implement a rescue program and focus efforts to achieve the supreme national interest and the interests of the citizens. We face great challenges, so I recommend you to talk less and work more. We will face great difficulties and we will work to overcome them and devise possible solutions. The outside and inside depend on our success in dealing with the accumulated and overlapping crises, and the more we show seriousness, commitment and determination, the more brotherly and friendly countries will stand by us”.

“The Lebanese hope that the government will address their daily life problems and respond to their legitimate aspirations and expectations for a better future that will remove their anxiety and provide them with stability and a decent life. The priority is to alleviate their suffering and provide their urgent needs. The international community is counting on the government to revive Lebanon and bring it out of its depression” President Aoun said.

“We are in need of assistance from the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, international and regional funds, and donors. The initiation of reforms is a prerequisite for the international community to proceed with the mechanisms of support and provision of aid. Reforms are the basic building block for rebuilding the state, and without them it is impossible to save. Urgent and decisive executive steps are required to start reforms” the President continued.

“You are specialized ministers. You have scientific and practical experiences and future visions. Our responsibility is to save Lebanon, so let us be up to the responsibility” President Aoun said.

The President hoped that the ministerial committee would include in the ministerial statement, in addition to the national constants, the following basic ideas and topics:

-The recovery plan approved by the previous government.

-The reforms contained in the French initiative.

-Holding the parliamentary elections on their dates, which were set on May 8, 2022.

-Completing the ongoing investigations into the Beirut port explosion.

-Continuing with the anti-corruption plan, especially the initiation of forensic audit.

-Securing basic necessities for citizens.

-Starting the school year as soon as possible.

-Updating and implementing a recovery plan to save the country from the financial crisis.

-Completing of negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

-Following-up on the implementation of the financing card plan and seek to secure the necessary funds to ensure its continuity.

-Approving and implementation of the economic plan prepared by the global consulting office McKinsey (to stimulate the productive sectors).

-Working on the return of displaced Syrians.

-Developing a plan to restructure the banking sector.

-Implementing the decisions of the CEDRE conference, including the projects mentioned in the investment program.

-Completing and implement the plan for solid waste treatment.

-Completing and implementing an electricity plan.

Then, the President of the Republic called on the ministers to carry out the handover operations and to expedite as much as possible to carry out their new tasks.

Then, the Prime Minister said: “The eyes of the Lebanese, all the Lebanese, are fixed on you. You are the hope at this point. You come to positions of responsibility from the ranks of this tormented people. You lived the pain, and you still are. You know all too well the people’s need for bread, medicine, gasoline and diesel. These things are not luxuries, but are necessary for the continuity of life in its natural form. Much work awaits us”.

“We are very tired. We all have to sacrifice. The country requires exceptional measures. It is true that we do not have a magic stick. The situation is very difficult, but with firm will, determination, and planning, we can all, as one working team, achieve for our patient and suffering people some of what they hope and desire. It is true that the situation is difficult, but nothing is impossible when intentions are clear. One hand cannot clap. What is required is the concerted efforts of all Lebanese. Do not disappoint the Lebanese. Let your words be accompanied by deeds. Time is precious and there is no way to waste it” the Prime Minister added.

“Your success in your ministries means the success of all Lebanese in achieving what secures for them a dignified life without humiliation or wishful thinking. When you agreed to engage in this rescue work, you knew that you were coming to serve. Assuming a ministry these days is not a luxury. So be up to this responsibility, publicly all of us, and with sure cooperation with His Excellency the President of the Republic and with the honorable Parliament, we can reach safety. I ask you to reduce media appearances because people look forward to actions and are no longer interested in words and promises. And things for people are evaluated according to results. I invite you to expedite the process of handing over your ministries, because we are facing great challenges and we must face them firmly and seriously. That is why I call on the Minister of Works to give immediate directions to clean the lanes of highways and roads before the rain overtakes us and the scenes of mischief are repeated on the roads” Premier Mikati indicated.

“We will deal with the issue of fuel and medicine in a way that stops the humiliation of people. I ask the Minister of Education to hold emergency meetings to complete the plan to start the school year, and this file is more than urgent. It is not permissible for our children to stay out of school for the third year. I also call for coordination between the Ministries of Health and Education, in order to study the possibility of vaccination against corona for students over the age of twelve” PM Mikati continued.

“For my part, I will intensify cabinet sessions and include important topics which have a direct impact on daily citizen-lives. We affirm permanent coordination between ministers on issues of common interest between more than one ministry, and coordination between ministries when necessary. In this regard, I stress the need for cooperation by all, which is essential for the success of any government” PM Mikati added.

“Our government will work for the sake of all of Lebanon and the Lebanese. It will not distinguish between those who are pro-regime or in the opposition, those who announce their support for us and those who do not, those who will grant parliamentary confidence and those who will withhold. We shall exercise our roles under the roof of law. A servant has nothing to do but strive, and God is the guardian of success” the Prime Minister concluded.

Afterwards, the cabinet decided to form a committee to draft the policy statement, headed by the Prime Minister and with the membership of the Deputy Prime Minister and Ministers of: Justice, Energy, Finance, Culture, Labor and Agriculture. The ministerial committee will hold its first session shortly, i.e. at 1:00pm at the Grand Serail.

Questions & Answers:

Afterwards, a dialogue took place between Minister Kordahi, and journalists, where he was asked about his statement yesterday at the airport and accusing him of infringing media freedom. Minister Kordahi said “Can anyone believe that I am accused of infringing media freedoms? It was very clear yesterday and doesn’t accept any interpretation. There was no work of prohibition. I rather wished the media to refrain from receiving guests who portrayed that the country is going to be ruined, and it was not I who would prevent it. We want a glimmer of hope, and I want you all my media colleagues, my beloved, to contribute with us in this because the country needs all our efforts, not just the efforts of individuals”.

“Every government which is formed is given a grace period of one hundred days all over the world, but this government, before its formation, began to take action before its formation. Therefore, let them calm down a little, this was what I meant and I do not want to say more than that, so wish us success because all the Lebanese people wish us success and want us to succeed in our mission” Minister Kordahi stated.

In response to another question about the ministerial statement, he said that a ministerial committee meeting will be held at 1:00pm. “The lines mentioned by the President are supposed to be followed by the committee and for every recent incident”.

Regarding mentioning titles, Minister Kordahi indicated that “It seems that we will start cancelling the previous titles and start using only the word President, according to what was previously decided”.

Responding to another question about the media, Minister Kordahi said “I am older than you, and every Lebanese official grows up with honest, purposeful, pure and patriotic media. We are all Lebanese and no one is arguing with us. We did not come from militia backgrounds to suppress the media, or from other backgrounds. Rather, we have worked in very large media outlets in the West and we know the meaning of freedom and its limits. There is no infinite freedom or freedom that infringes on the people or the homeland, because sometimes there is an attack on the homeland and an escape which affects the homeland to the core and kills it! That is why we want a clean and aware media which has Lebanon’s image”.

Concerning the deadline for completing the ministerial policy statement, Minister Kordahi answered, “As the Prime Minister said in the cabinet session, it will be issued in 3 days, God willing”.

Regarding cabinet sessions, Minister Kordahi replied, “As the Prime Minister said, he has an intention to intensify sessions. Two or three sessions may take place”.

Concerning the name of the government, Minister Kordahi said “Name it as you wish, courage for good work, or government of hope or work, or both together”.

Trio Meeting:

Ministers successively arrived at the Presidential Palace, starting 10:00am, where the official photo was taken for each of them. Then the Prime Minister arrived and met with President Aoun in his office, then Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri joined them.

Souvenir Photo:

At 11:00am, President Aoun, Speaker Berri and PM Mikati, accompanied by the ministers, and moved to the Presidents’ Garden, where the official commemorative photo of the new government was taken.