Cabinet Slashes Phone Call Fees, Approves New Administrative Appointments

The cabinet on Friday agreed to lower phone call tariffs and approved a number of administrative appointments after postponing controversial debate over military ones.

According to several media outlets, the cabinet “slashed the fees of cellphone and landline calls.”

The postpaid subscribers were given 60 free additional minutes per month against their fixed monthly fee of $15.

The prepaid subscribers will be charged 25 cents per minute instead 36 cents.

For the ADSL internet data plans, they will be upgraded from 1 mb/sec to 2 mb/sec, and from a ceiling of 4 GB per month to 40 GB. This covers 95 percent of subscriber traffic.

During the cabinet session, Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil also proposed an article demanding the annulment of Telecom Minister Butros Harb's decision on IMEI numbers, because it "violates norms and laws."

On April 28, Harb had reversed a decision obliging anyone bringing cellphones into the country to register their IMEI codes with the relevant authorities, a measure that was put in place to curb smuggling and tax evasion.

Harb is accused of revoking a decree issued by the previous government and carrying the signature of the finance minister. Khalil has said that Harb had not consulted with him before making the move.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Tammam Salam hoped at the beginning of the session that a new president will be elected by parliament before the end of President Michel Suleiman's term.

Salam also tackled the issues of Syrian refugees, solid waste and oil exploration.

Before entering the session, Economy Minister Alain Hakim described the Syrian refugee influx into Lebanon as an "incursion", noting that it would be the first item on the cabinet's agenda.

Al-Jadeed television said the cabinet discussed efforts to "devise an emergency plan for Syrian refugees in Lebanon" as MTV said "the cabinet intends to draft a text containing key decisions about Syrian refugees."

But according to Voice of Lebanon radio (100.5), the cabinet failed to approve the plan and postponed it to the next session.

MTV said the cabinet “did not approve appointments related to the state-run hospitals in Baabda and Akkar.”

However, it appointed Abdullah Khamis as director general of the Cooperative of Government Employees and Yasser Zebian as chairman of the board of directors of the Public Institution for Consumer Markets.

It also appointed a chairman for the board of directors of the Beirut state-run hospital and a chairman for the administrative board of the National Council for Scientific Research.


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