The new government must be productive and eliminate corruption, Free Patriotic Movement leader and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said during a news conference Saturday.
If the new government does not produce results within 100 days, Bassil said, "then we will not be silent, but go out into the streets and demand better."
Bassil identified the electricity sector and solid waste management as two areas that need Cabinet’s immediate attention. Lebanon already has completed the studies and has solutions ready to solve the electricity problem, he said, but corruption and government inefficiency have stood in the way.
Lebanon’s ministers must hold themselves accountable if they are not delivering the will of the people, the minister said.
“The people will not believe we are really fighting corruption until cases are opened and people go to prison,” he said.
The new Cabinet lost the Office of the Minister of State for Combating Corruption, raising concerns over the past two days about the government’s committing to fighting graft.
But the FPM leader said that this was not important, and that “we consider all our ministries as anti-corruption ministries.”
He went on to highlight the role of ministers affiliated with the FPM, whose three main priorities will be the economy, combating corruption and addressing the impact of refugees in Lebanon.
Bassil said he was optimistic that the economy would be revived with the new government, noting the recent publication of a long-anticipated economic report by the McKinsey consulting firm and the $11 billion in grants and loans pledged to Lebanon at last year’s CEDRE conference.
He expressed hope that the new government would work to facilitate the return of Syrian refugees, thanks to the agreement achieved at the Arab Economic and Social Development Summit held in Beirut last month.
Despite Bassil initially objecting to the inclusion of the word “voluntary” in an agenda article about refugee returns, Arab nations eventually made an agreement about the wording of the conference’s closing statement, which maintained that returns should be voluntary.
The statement, which had been read by Bassil at the summit, called on the international community to shoulder its responsibility and promote circumstances that would allow the refugees to return to their home country, such as helping host countries as well as investing in the refugees’ homelands.
At Saturday’s press conference, Bassil also spoke about the challenges that had stalled the formation of a government, which finally came to an end Thursday night after more than eight months of negotiation. He apologized to the Lebanese people for the delay.
“Forming a national unity government is difficult,” he said, but added that politicians nevertheless “achieved it in a way that reflected the diversity of the electorate.”
But he lamented that the FPM had to give up on a number of portfolios on its wish list, including the Finance and Interior ministries.
Bassil spoke about a number of challenges that arose during the government formation process, and said there had been attempts to prevent Aoun from giving his opinion and getting his share in Cabinet.
He also addressed the issue of representing the six Hezbollah-backed Sunni lawmakers, who had held up the government formation for months.
In the end, Hassan Mrad - the son of one of the six MPs - was chosen to represent the group from President Michel Aoun’s share, but he will not belong to the FPM’s bloc as Bassil had wanted.
Bassil said working with Mrad in the government formation process helped strengthen ties with Hezbollah. Despite the hold-ups and struggles on the path to the new government, he said, “we strengthened our relationship ... so we can succeed together.”
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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