Gemayel Says Government's Austerity Budget Is Far From Being Austere

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Gemayel Says Government's Austerity Budget Is Far From Being Austere

Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel said that the fight against corruption in Lebanon is targeting the wrong people, given that wrongdoings are mostly committed by senior officials whereas only the inferiors are the ones held to account.

"The political authority, consisting of ministers, lawmakers and other senior officials, is responsible for 80% of squandering in Lebanon; employees in public institutions are responsible for the remaining 20 percent," he told Lebanon Files website.

Gemayel criticized the unfair approach adopted by the government in its austerity budget, saying it is treating the rich and the people, as well as the honorable and dishonorable equally.

"Some of the measures are good, but not enough. Reducing the salaries of lawmakers and ministers does not solve the problem as long the exorbitant costs of official trips are not curbed," Gemayel noted. "For instance, one visit made by an official to Russia cost $500,000."

"When going over the agendas of the government sessions, we can find 60 or 70 items related to official trips," he added. "Is it acceptable that the officials in a country which decided to opt for austerity to continue to behave this way?"

Gemayel recalled two draft laws submitted by the Kataeb bloc to deal with the state's expenditures, with one of them suggesting hat the lawmakers' lifelong salaries and compensations would be cut off.

The proposal suggests that a lawmaker would get 75% of his salary during a period of only one year after his mandate ends; he would stop getting anything after that period. The one year period is aimed at giving the outgoing lawmaker some time to restore his professional life and to reintegrate in the labor market.

The second Kataeb proposal suggests a salary deduction whenever a deputy fails to attend a Parliament session.

"This should also apply to all public employees, knowing that a survey found that 30% of them does not work as required."

"Unfortunately, the government is insisting on keeping all the employees in their jobs, whether they deserve it or not, and cutting their salaries. This measure would be the worst because it would drive the competent to become lazy like his undeserving colleagues."

Gemayel deplored the fact that the draft budget has failed to include any real and effective measures to fight corruption, stressing that only 10% of the country's problems is being addressed whille the rest is neglected.

"Random employment, fake jobs, dubious tenders and the ministers' expenses must be dealt with," he stressed.