Gemayel to Ruling Authority: You Are Back, So Are We!

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Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Thursday said that the party will carry out its role as an opposition force now that the new government has kicked off its work, warning of the ongoing bad performance and mismanagement that are jeopardizing the country.

In a press conference held at the Kataeb's headquarter in Saifi, Gemayel criticized the contradictions and bickering that are marring the new government, stressing the need for the Cabinet members to be in harmony and solidarity.

"Just like politics is based on partitioning, the economy and public finances are also based on partitioning," he said.

"The problem is that the forces taking part in the ruling authority are dealing with economic issues based on partitioning, not on keenness to the country's welfare; their only concern is how to distribute the State's resources among them."

The Kataeb leader blamed the absence of an economic vision and corruption for the growing current State deficit, blasting the ruling authority's recklessness in handling this alarming problem.

"How can a country that is on the brink of bankruptcy maintain outrageous squandering and random spending?" he asked.

Gemayel also deemed the failure to abide by transparent tendering standards as the primary cause of corruption in the public sector, saying that it is time to stop the so-called consensual agreements whenever a State project is awarded to a company.

"The ruling authority's actions go against its pledges," he said.

"After all that was said about the need to apply transparent tenders, it is unbelievable that the government's agenda still includes arrangements made by mutual consent."

Gemayel noted that the authority is even unable to assess the consequences of its own decisions, adding that the State deficit was estimated at 4.8 billion while it actually reached 6.1 billion.

Moreover, he criticized the government's plan to exempt some major companies from taxes totaling $115 million, questioning the motives behind such a move at a time when the country needs to boost its revenues.

Gemayel deplored the ongoing absence of measures to curb tax evasion which is estimated at 4.9 billion/year, casting doubt over the State's ability to enforce a flawless tax collection nationwide amid an incomplete sovereignty given that there are still regions which the State is denied access to.

"Sovereignty is key to control the borders, enforce equality and empower the Judiciary," he stressed. "How do you intend to curb tax evasion and quell violations while the State is still unable to impose its authority across the entire Lebanese territory?"

Gemayel deemed the illegal hires that were carried out in the public sector before the 2018 parliamentary elections despite a hire freeze as one of the biggest corruption scandals witnessed in Lebanon.

"The country's economy has reached a critical phase that requires an in-depth study to eliminate hires that were based on election-related nepotism and favoritism. A survey must be conducted to determine the superfluous positions in the public sector," he said.

"We repeatedly called for giving the pay hike granted by the salary scale law to those who really deserve it."

Gemayel warned against imposing new taxes on the Lebanese, vowing that the Kataeb party will confront such a plan just like it did before.

"You are responsible for the current financial conditions, not the people. Therefore, it is you who must solve the problem instead of throwing it on the people by imposing new levies," Gemayel said in an address to the ruling authority.

"You are making the people pay for your bad performance, mismanagement, lavish spending and corruption," he stated. "You are back, so are we!"