Hector Al-Hajjar, the Minister of Social Affairs, confirmed that the “Aman” program was operational and that the double-beneficiary cards had been suspended, emphasizing that the problem was technical and not political or electoral in nature. Minister Hajjar stated that, in order to maintain transparency, the ministry’s work, the facts of the visits conducted by its teams and regions, and the number of payment cases within the “Aman” program will be available electronically within ten days.
On the other hand, Minister Al-Hajjar emphasized that he did not look for the party behind each association that the Council of Ministers decided to grant the public benefit, but rather on what met the conditions. In this context, the Social Affairs Minister stressed that these associations are the fruit of our country, and that every association in Lebanon that meets the conditions has the right to obtain this status.
Minister Al-Hajjar’s positions came after meeting the President of the Republic, General Michel Aoun.
The President was briefed on the atmosphere of the visit of a delegation of Arab Ministers of Social Affairs to Lebanon next June.
They ministry’s reform plan, the Pope’s visit to Lebanon, and Brussels conference next May were also discussed.
After the meeting, Minister Hajjar made the following statement:
“I met the President of the Republic to brief him on the points we are working on at the level of the Ministry of Social Affairs.
The first relates to our receiving a committee of seven Arab ministers of social affairs, on the second, third and fourth of next June. The Arab League and Arab ministers need to review the social conditions in Lebanon.
The guest delegation will conduct field visits within two days to social institutions, provided that decisions are issued after that to support these institutions, and to take directions.
We then carry out protocol visits, and visits to social institutions.
As for the second point that I informed the President and I want to inform the Lebanese about, it is that the Ministry has started the reform plan and I had promised to finish during this month everything that I should have finished with regard to the issue of service centers and emerging projects. On the issue of service centers, there was a recommendation from the Audit Bureau reducing the number to 240, especially since there are a number of them that are ineffective.
We have finished the work and handed it over to the Audit Bureau, which approved the plan and returned the answer to us, and we will have 140 centers instead of 240.
We will not dispense with any employee, but we will merge the centers according to regions and geographical distribution, provided that employees join the centers that will become essential.
The merger process will take place after the elections, we have approved the plan and released the salaries after the Audit Bureau had linked them, and today I have news for all the employees of the development services centers in Lebanon that they will start receiving their dues and wages.
I also discussed with His Excellency the President the Pope’s visit to Lebanon and the preparations before and after it. I informed President Aoun that there is a delegation of Arab and French businessmen who will visit Lebanon on the sidelines of the visit, specifically two days before it, and a conference will be held to support Lebanon, in its role, message and the social situation in it.
The delegation will remain during the Pope’s visit, and I have informed His Excellency the President of his desire to meet with His Holiness for a few minutes to hand a paper on how to support Lebanon.
We also discussed the issue of the Brussels meeting next May on the displaced, bearing in mind that there will be a Lebanese delegation to the meeting, and I, as Minister of Social Affairs, will be responsible for the file of the displaced, hoping that we will meet with the head of the delegation and the Minister of Foreign Affairs to attend the joint speech on this issue.
Questions & Answers:
Asked about the financing card and whether he corrected the defect of some people’s double benefit, Minister Hajjar said “The Aman program is working properly and well. The Tuesday payment was paid to about 5,000 people, and at the same time we started paying the people to whom the first payment was paid. The defect was corrected, and as I said on the first day, it was technical because for the first time in the history of Lebanon two projects were launched in parallel. There was a technical glitch in the visits, but the payment glitch did not exceed the number 1771.
As we said, this number was corrected and the cards that benefited double were suspended, and this issue is behind us.
We are not ashamed of what happened and it was not a political or electoral decision. Then, I want to reassure the journalists that, starting in the coming days, there will be access to the “Aman” program electronically on the facts of the visits, their areas and the number of payment cases, in order to ensure transparency. I promise to complete the matter within ten days, especially since we have completed the technical logistical preparations in light of the need to update the information, and thus the journalists and the Lebanese people can relax and see things on a daily basis, without entering into names”.
Question: There is another criticism related to giving the Council of Ministers the status of public benefit to some associations and excluding others, amid talk of political, sectarian and electoral quotas in this file.
Answer: “The public interest has assets. If someone wants to travel to Paris, he must go to the airport and buy a ticket, provided that he has obtained a visa, and the same applies to the public interest. The Lebanese state has given the Ministry of Social Affairs the ability to accept requests for associations requesting the status of public benefit. The requests are studied in the sector that receives them, and then the measures are taken, starting with the visits, passing through the study of the financial file and the evaluation of activities. The associations that were approved in the session took this path and their files were present, so do we keep these files in the drawer? Who deserves this status also, no problem. You say that there is a quota system, I will stop there and be transparent. Where do I get the associations from? This is Lebanon if there is an association that takes care of people with special needs and its name is “You are my brother” and I don’t know its connection, what do I do? Should I say change the name so that I can give it the status of public benefit?
Every association in Lebanon has the right to apply for the public benefit and we follow up on this file, and if it fulfills the conditions, it has the right to obtain this status. These associations are the fruit of our country, and I did not look for the party behind each of the associations, but I looked at the list and who was approved for it. And if there is another way, then one of you should tell me how we should work. This is not before the elections. We will continue to work until May 15th. Why don’t they ask about the Minister of Social Affairs’ visit to Tripoli last Sunday? The visit is not an election tour, I am not from Tripoli, but a tour of social presence and solidarity with the people.
The approval of the public benefit is a round of giving the right to associations that submitted their applications 10 or 12 years ago, and none of their files came out of the drawer. Do you know how much it costs to renew each association’s papers annually? The cost is between two million and three million Lebanese pounds.
The associations apply for renewal, and the files of each of them become large, without deciding on their issue. Deciding on it is what we tried to do, and if we make a mistake, we can correct it, we have no problem”.