Lebanese analysts cast doubts on gov't economic reform measures

2019-10-21 23:36

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by Dana Halawi

BEIRUT, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Lebanese analysts expressed their doubts about the incumbent cabinet's capability of implementing the reform measures announced by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, calling for a new one to be formed for the task.

Nassib Ghobril, an economist and head of the economic research department at Byblos Bank, told Xinhua that some of the reform measures announced by Hariri are much needed by the private sector but there is a crisis of confidence in the country.

"We got used to receiving such reports and studies by Lebanese authorities but they never get implemented. This political class has lost the confidence of people and the private sector," he explained, citing the anti-corruption law in Hariri's economic reform measures.

Mohammad Aboul Hassan, a financial analyst and banker, said people lost trust in the government and this is what prompted them to protest against the entire political system.

However, the government and the people have no other choices but to go on with the proposed reforms to avoid further economic deterioration, he added.

Hariri announced a list of reforms that will be implemented by the government in 2019, after five days of nationwide demonstrations against the government's policies.

Among the most important reforms announced by Hariri is a 2020 state budget with a 0.6-percent deficit, a reduction in the salaries of ministers, parliament members and former members by 50 percent, a reduction in the budgets of the Council for Development and Reconstruction and other public institutions by 70 percent.

Hariri said the government will provide healthcare for the elderly, inject an additional 20 billion Lebanese pounds (13.3 million U.S. dollars) to support the most vulnerable, build power stations and reduce 50 percent of the electricity's deficit in 2020.

The government has also agreed not to impose new taxes on citizens, with the central bank and commercial banks contributing mostly to the reduction of the budget deficit.

"Banks are already squeezed by previous taxes in the 2019 state budget. The government is targeting a sector that ensures liquidity in the market," Ghobril said, adding banks have started cutting costs by stopping projects and closing branches.

"Lebanese authorities should have formed a new government with 16 members of experts who have credibility to implement concrete convincing measures immediately," he added.

Makram Rabah, a lecturer at the American University of Beirut's Department of History, believes that a transitional government should assume the responsibility of implementing political reforms by making changes to the entire political system.

Aboul Hassan, however, insisted that the most efficient thing to do for the time being is to supervise reforms' implementation and come up with a new parliamentary election law which will lead to a new political class.
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