SUN 12 - 7 - 2020
Date: Jun 16, 2020
Source: The Daily Star
Lebanon: Diab declares 'war on corruption'
Joumblatt takes aim at Diab's performance
BEIRUT: Prime Minister Hassan Diab Monday declared the “start of the war on corruption,” vowing to “not stop the battle” in the face of “treachery and verbal abuse.”

“Corruption has caused the country to collapse and the system of corruption has become stronger than the country and today I announce the start of the war on corruption,” Diab said during a meeting with supervisory committees.

“The battle is long and difficult, although we will be subjected to accusations, treachery and verbal abuse, and the corrupt will try to protect themselves with political and sectarian cloaks,” Diab said.

Diab’s words come as the Lebanese pound plunged to an unprecedented low in recent days, trading at over LL5,000 in the black market in some areas, driving thousands to protest against the decimation of the pound’s exchange rate.

Thousands have taken to the street over the last week to protest government corruption believed to be a leading cause of the current economic crisis, the worst the country has seen since The Civil War.

Joumblatt takes aim at Diab's performance

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party chief Walid Joumblatt took aim at the government Monday, following Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s allegation that opposition groups were attempting to lead a “coup” against his Cabinet.

“About which coup is the prime minister talking about - the coup against reform and the return of Selaata [power plant], and the lack of uniformity in the financial figures and therefore the failure of talks with international bodies,” Joumblatt tweeted.

Cabinet U-turned on its majority decision to suspend the construction of a power plant at Selaata after Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil asked President Michel Aoun to compel the government to reconsider its move.

The plant had been rejected on the grounds that the required land acquisition made it too expensive.

The Central Bank and Cabinet only managed to agree on unified figures of BDL’s losses last Monday – more than a month after the government approached the International Monetary fund for a $10 billion bailout package.

The government’s reform agenda has also come under fire, particularly after it approved a new batch of appointments to senior civil service posts and positions within financial oversight bodies last week. The appointments were widely seen as taking place outside a framework of competency and merit.

Only 15 of the 103 laws discussed by Parliament in its last two legislative sessions carried a reform element, according to the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. Just six of those 15 laws passed.

Joumblatt extended his diatribe against the government, urging the authorities to close the border with Syria to prevent the smuggling of dollars, fuel and food to Syria.

Imports of fuel and wheat are subsidized by the Central Bank, which is also injecting unknown quantities of its dollar reserves into the local exchange market in a bid to control the Lebanese pound's collapse.

“Beware of spending the [Central Bank’s] reserves and beware of smuggling and the theft of the national stocks of food and oil,” Joumblatt wrote. “Controlling the border... is more than a duty.”

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