The Cabinet Wednesday failed to take action on a new set of salary  scales for public sector workers, as top leaders said a spate of wage  and benefits demands by state employees raised “question marks” about their timing. During a session chaired by President Michel Sleiman at Baabda Palace, the ministers also approved a contract with a Turkish firm to lease two power-generating barges, in a bid to ease the dire electricity situation in the country.
The ministers set a condition that the first payment on the deal would not exceed 22 percent of the total, but the step is not expected to bring relief any time soon because of the time needed to secure the necessary revenues. The relevant ministries were asked to take “all of the necessary measures to secure the implementation of this contract.”
Sleiman said it was unacceptable for teachers’ groups to boycott the correction of end-of-year examinations, “because they are responsible for raising the generations of the future.” Sleiman called it a “no-win situation” for the teachers, who have vowed to not back down unless they are covered by the raise, which was endorsed by the government earlier in the year.
For his part, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said the rise of various wage and benefits protest movements at the same time “raises question marks about what is taking place on the ground.”
Public sector employees and contract workers at Electricite du Liban have also engaged in protests in recent weeks. Ministers decided to task an expanded ministerial committee to study the salary scales issue, and carry out “a detailed discussion of the section related to the education sector, which will receive priority in the committee’s work,” according to a statement issued after the session.
Mikati was named to head the committee, which includes the deputy prime minister, Samir Moukbel, and Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi. Safadi, who has been battling health problems of late, was one of four ministers absent from the session.
The first meeting of the committee will take place on Monday at the Grand Serail. The Cabinet is scheduled to convene on July 3 and 4 for a discussion of the 2012 state budget.
In other business, the ministers approved the appointment of Brigadier Mohamamd Toufeili as deputy director-general of State Security, while Sami Saliba, Firas Safieddine and Fadi Fakih were appointed members of the board of directors for the Capital Market. The Cabinet accept the resignation of Fadi Nammad, one of the directors-general at the Public Works Ministry.
Sleiman opened the session by briefing ministers on the results of Monday’s session of National Dialogue, and the formation of a committee to discuss disarming Palestinian groups outside refugee camps, after the step was first approved by a National Dialogue session in 2006. Sleiman said he had begun a dialogue with Palestinian leaders, “in order to solve a number humanitarian, social and security issues.”
The president also discussed this week’s announcement that Mohamed Mursi had won the second round of Egypt’s presidential elections, noting that “the launch of the democratic course would have a positive reflection on Lebanon.” He said recent visits to Lebanon by the foreign ministers of European countries signaled that efforts were under way to prevent Lebanon from being affected by unrest in the region.