President of the Free Patriotic Movement, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil, said in a press conference after the "Strong Lebanon" bloc meeting that "the objective behind the economic paper is to tell the citizens that the government deserves confidence in order to fix the economy."
"We have put forth 10 basic suggestions in the budget negotiation, namely the implementation of the electricity plan immediately (...) and the reduction of waste, starting with the permanent or temporary cancellation of institutions and departments deemed unneeded, such as the Council of the South, the Ministry of Information, etc, stopping contributions from public institutions to private sectors or companies, (...) reducing consumer expenses, cutting down high budgets in institutions such as Ogero and the Middle East Airlines, the Ministry of Finance contracting with a specialized company to detect tax-evading companies, making sure everyone is subject to VAT, imposing a tax on cigarettes, controlling the issue of smuggling at legitimate crossings and imposing mandatory customs declaration in the country of origin as well as the adoption of the scanner system..."
"We have proposed that our goal for the next three years is to reach a zero deficit in the balance between expenses and imports, except for investment expenditures that improve services," Bassil added.
"The second part is related to the balance of payments. What is intended is swift measures to limit the flow of funds from Lebanon to foreign countries. The main problem is the lack of liquidity in the market. (...) We should encourage local tourism and encourage foreign tourism to Lebanon. (...) We proposed an increase on outbound travel tickets. The visits of the Prime Minister and ministers abroad aim to convince them [foreigners] to invest and leave deposits in the Central Bank of Lebanon," he went on to say, urging the immediate move to gas production.
The Minister also highlighted the importance of a quick executive mechanism to implement the McKenzie plan, and the launching of the construction investment program, as well as solving the housing loans issue.
"It is particularly important for the Middle East Airlines to reduce the inbound fare for Lebanese and foreigners," he added.
Touching on the issue of displaced people, Bassil said "we are a country that is exhausted economically and financially. For every dollar that enters [Lebanon] to help the displaced people, another dollar should enter for the sake of the Lebanese State. Otherwise we cannot continue."
Bassil explained that "these proposals do not eclipse the paper submitted last year, but is an integrated package and a summary of the economic situation.
"We are facing a serious crisis and a crisis team must be formed. We propose that President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with the assistance of the Ministers of Economy and Finance and the Governor of the Central Bank of Lebanon, to form a crisis cell that convenes regularly so that this issue receives the necessary daily follow-up, without any further delay," he concluded.
Source: National News Agency