SUN 8 - 12 - 2019
Jan 31, 2019
The Daily Star
Busy day for Parliament as MPs agree on agenda
Emily Lewis| The Daily Star
BEIRUT: Parliament’s secretariat Wednesday agreed to a nine-item agenda for its next legislative session, as committees debated a raft of draft laws.
Later, after Speaker Nabih Berri’s weekly meeting with lawmakers, Amal Movement MP Ali Bazzi told reporters that the agenda would be distributed by Thursday. The agenda is usually distributed about 48 hours before a legislative session.
But Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli told The Daily Star that he still did not know when the session would be held, noting that it was the prerogative of the speaker alone rather than the secretariat to determine when it is held.
The session is expected to address urgent measures, chiefly to do with the state’s finances. Parliament has been unable to ratify the 2019 budget because Cabinet must first endorse it.
However, when a Cabinet will be formed remains unclear, after more than eight months of political wrangling. The constitutional means of funding the government without a budget expire Thursday night.
Following the meeting of MPs at Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence, MP Marwan Hamadeh objected to one of the speaker’s proposed agenda items, which would give LL2.7 billion ($1.8 million) in funds to Electricite du Liban for future expenses, a statement from Parliament said.
“I oppose granting Electricite du Liban carte blanche to use the sum of LL2.7 billion without referring to previous laws related to establishing a commission to organize the electricity sector and form a governing body,” Hamadeh said.
A number of parliamentary committees held sessions throughout the day, including the Information Technology Committee, which urged representatives of ministries and other public bodies present to take measures to ensure the implementation of an e-transactions and personal data law.
In September, lawmakers endorsed the law, which contains provisions legalizing secure online transaction methods and defining cybercrime. However, committee member MP Anis Nassar told The Daily Star that many organizations were “lagging behind” in applying it.
“The ministries are telling us they are doing their best to implement the law,” he said, “but we need them to hurry up.”
The Media and Communications Committee met to discuss amendments to a draft audiovisual media law, at a session attended by caretaker Information Minister Melhem Riachi. Committee Chair Hussein Hajj Hasan said afterward that the primary aim of the session had been to propose new policies that would be agreed to by TV companies.
According to Hajj Hasan, the committee asked TV organizations to put forward their comments on the draft law.
According to committee member MP Nicolas Sehnaoui, representatives of Lebanese TV companies who attended the session said the text needed to be reviewed “drastically” and that in its current stage “was not fit to be adopted,” but they did not go into specifics.
They did lament “the lack of funding [for the sector] and a crisis in advertising revenues,” Sehnaoui said, adding that the committee was looking at a way to subsidize the sector as a result.
A session of the Finance and Budget Committee chaired by MP Ibrahim Kanaan discussed a draft law to open new funding for 13 projects across the country.
While some committee members maintained that a Cabinet had to be formed first to approve it, others said the funding was more urgent, the state-run National News Agency cited Kanaan as saying.
In late 2018, the caretaker Cabinet referred a law to Parliament requesting a grant of $93 million to fund the projects, which include opening new roads in Mount Lebanon, improving sewage and water works in the south and developing Nabatieh’s Justice Palace.
Nabatieh MP Yassine Jaber told The Daily Star that the committee held a “healthy debate” on the proposed law, raising questions over the validity of a caretaker Cabinet making such a referral.
Jaber also expressed concern over the financing of the proposal, saying that in Lebanon’s precarious financial situation, “we should be very careful about approving such laws.”
MP Nicolas Nahas told The Daily Star that the committee did not come to any agreements on the draft funding law.
The final session of the day saw a subcommittee of the joint parliamentary committees meet for the first time to discuss a draft law that would help settle cases of building violations. MP Ali Darwish told The Daily Star that the session was a preliminary discussion to establish the framework for the law and consider the specific concerns of each of Lebanon’s regions.
The NNA reported that Tyre MP Nawwaf Musawi blamed the Israeli occupation for building violations in his constituency, saying many Lebanese people were forced from their homes and had no choice but to build illegally on public property.
In the end, no agreement was reached on the terms of the proposed law, Darwish said, as MPs from different parts of the country could not decide what to prioritize.
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