SCC Keeps Thursday Strike after Govt. Fails to Reach Final Agreement on Funding of New Wage Scaleإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The cabinet on Wednesday again failed to reach a final agreement on the sources of funding for the new wage scale adopted in early September, postponing discussions to an October 31 session, as the Syndicate Coordination Committee declared that it will press on with its general strike scheduled for Thursday.
In line with Finance Minister Mohammed Safadi's proposal on funding the new scale, cabinet members agreed in principle to raise the VAT on imported vehicles from 10% to 15% and to increase taxes on alcohol, tobacco, bank interests, stamps and construction licenses. However, the decision was not officially adopted due to lack of consensus on all the sources of funding.
"The funding of the new wage scale will be finalized on October 31," Information Minister Walid al-Daouq announced after the cabinet session.
"Pressuring us with strikes is not acceptable because we want to approve the new wage scale without undermining the country's financial stability," he added.
Daouq noted that "an agreement in principle has been reached over the sources of funding and the final touches are currently being put on the texts."
The minister acknowledged that "no final agreement has been reached on certain issues, such as the settlements over construction violations, as discussions revolved around whether to impose fines or not."
On September 6, the cabinet approved the new wage scale and decided to fund it from a hike in taxes on real estate and banking transactions, without reaching a final agreement on the sources of funding.
But the Economic Committees, a grouping of the country's businessmen and owners of major firms, have announced their rejection of “any decision issued by cabinet on the new wage scale,” warning that the government’s plan “will inflict heavy losses on the public and private sectors.”
Meanwhile, Nehme Mahfoud, the head of private schools teachers union, told MTV on Wednesday that the SCC is "not concerned with all the taxes the government is discussing because that's only an excuse to impose further taxes on people."
"Teachers are the ones who will go on strike tomorrow, not the school administrations, with all due respect to the private schools," he clarified.
Separately, President Michel Suleiman said at the beginning of the session that he was relieved by the latest judicial appointments, noting that "the army must preserve security in the Bekaa and all the regions."
"The appointments will enable courts to perform their role, amid the complaints about alleged corruption and squandering of public funds," Suleiman added.
He also stressed the need to accelerate the discussion of the 2013 state budget and to approve it before the end of the year.