Aoun: Rescue a Responsibility of All Away from Settling Political Scores

President Michel Aoun said on Wednesday the rescue plan was not the responsibility of a single group or party in Lebanon, as he urged unity to face the threats against Lebanon's existence.

“The rescue we seek is not the responsibility of one party or one authority. Getting out of the dark tunnel that we are crossing is everybody's responsibility,” said Aoun at a meeting with heads of parliamentary blocs at Baabda Palace.

He said Lebanon’s economic, monetary and financial structures have been “stricken hard, which compels for the utmost levels of transparency and unity. We need to move beyond settling (political) scores, we must unite to overcome our deepening crisis and cover the losses in our public and private sectors.”

“Crises and setbacks have been chasing us since October 2019 after banks stopped meeting their depositors' requests in July 2019 and Lebanon entered a very volatile stage," added the President.

"The economic rescue plan is accompanied by a request for support from the International Monetary Fund, which is the mandatory path for recovery if we negotiate well and commit to the reform that our people seek without any dictation or guardianship,” added Aoun.

“The government's plan aims to implement reform measures to boost growth and increase productivity in addition to correcting the balance of payments and improving the economy's competitiveness, in parallel with financial reform focused on eradicating corruption, improving tax compliance, controlling waste and good management of the public sector,” he concluded.

Aoun met most heads of the country's main parliamentary blocs to discuss the broad outlines of an economic reform plan that the government adopted last week but parts of which still require parliamentary support.

The economic roadmap comes with a government request for IMF assistance, which Aoun called "a mandatory path for recovery if we negotiate well and we are all fully committed to... reform".

Parliament speaker Nabih Berri and head of the Lebanese Forces party Samir Geagea, were among the attendees.

But political heavyweights such as former prime minister Saad Hariri boycotted the session over objections to the current government's approach to the economic crisis.

Marada chief, PSP chief, Kataeb chief and ex-PM Najib Miqati also boycotted the meeting.

The roadmap –- long seen as a prerequisite for external financial aid –- aims to reduce Lebanon's enormous public debt burden from 170 percent of GDP to less than 100 percent.

It calls for a restructuring of the banking sector and the country's enormous debt pile, as a well as tax hikes and a freeze in state hiring, among a raft of other reforms.

It comes against the backdrop of a series of economic woes, which include a dollar liquidity crunch, soaring inflation, the country's first sovereign debt default and a devaluation of the Lebanese pound.

The pound has been selling for more than 4,000 to the dollar on the black market in recent weeks in a record low.

Although the official exchange rate remains fixed at 1,500 to the dollar, the government's reform plan is based on an exchange rate of 3,500 to the greenback.

Source: Naharnet, Agence France Presse

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