Ministerial Policy Statement  

(November 02, 2000)                                                                In French

  

Your Excellency,

Honorable Members of Parliament

 Today, our government takes office against the backdrop of the most important national achievement in the history of Lebanon: the resistance victory, a resistance of all Lebanese over aggression and Israeli occupation which forced the enemy to retreat and admit defeat.

 With this new beginning, the government salutes the resistance, steadfastness and tolerance of Lebanese people, especially our kin in South and Western Bekaa for the suffering and sacrifice they endured for two consecutive decades. We pledge that our government will offer special care to these regions and compensate for missed economic opportunities which resulted from the occupation. On the international level, we will pursue with the international community and world organizations our petition for war reparations to be paid by Israel.

 One of the main aims of the government is to protect the resistance achievement and capitalize on it at all levels. This government regards Israeli policy of perpetual aggression; continued occupation of Shebaa Farms, continued detention of Lebanese detainees; occupation of Golan; and rejection of the rights of Palestinian people; including their right of return while exercising the fiercest forms of torture against them; all these led to the current escalation whereby the region is subject to all possibilities. For these reasons, our government reiterates that its many endeavors will be based on the deep conviction that the victory in the South is a shared victory for all Arabs achieved by joint Lebanese-Syrian efforts and perseverence unified position and partnership, in confronting Israeli assaults and their repercussions on Lebanon.

 Our government will strive in the current phase to practically translate the principle of a unified track and destiny binding Lebanon and Syria, while upholding the two countries independence and sovereignty.This principle provides both a basis and a strong impetus in Lebanonís quest to complete the liberation of land and prisoners, and to reject the settlement of Palestinian refugees, while upholding their right of return. It will also strengthen the Arab position by providing joint action against Israel, all the more so given the Palestinian people heroic uprising and a resolute Arab position. The peace process can not thrive on Israeil dictates, but rather on implementation of international resolutions. This Arab position will not be compromised by Israeli threats.

 Lebanon was the beacon of resistance, and it can be a catalyst in the effort to establish a durable, just and comprehensive peace, based on the liberation of its land, the Golan, and recovery of Palestinian peoplesí rights in accordance with United Nations resolutions. Lebanon will continue to strive for peace on the basis of its national principles, irrespective of both Israelís intransigence and todays seemingly dim peace prospects. This country, though small in size, yet in its sacrifices enormous, is fully cognizant of how occupation can with resistance be confronted. This very country is fully determined in its efforts to contribute to the establishment of just and comprehensive regional peace. Peace remains a strategic goal we work towards in cooperation with our Arab brethren and friends in the world.

 But our government, which looks forward to the day when such peace would dawn on our country and the region will not await such remedies. On the contrary, it will take the initiative in introducing political, administrative, economic, financial and social reforms, which are necessary to revive the economic cycle, gradually overcome social crisis and so put our house in order. It will immediatley begin to achieve these goals. Should the time for peace come, Lebanon will be ready to enter such an era. Should peace be hindered, we at least would have provided the needed protection for the country and its people.

 The formation of this government followed parliamentary elections whereby Lebanese people expressed their aspirations and ambitions. This Government, convinced of the need to support public freedoms, widen popular participation in public life, improve democratic practices and work on remedying the causes of the economic and social woes of the Lebanese, will heed the peopleís aspirations and wishes. We look towards a better, more deserving future for our country and its citizens.

The future we envisage means the consolidation of our national principles, based on sovereignty, independence and democracy, the encouragement of dialogue and interaction, the adoption of productive modernization adaptable to our heritage. It is a firm commitment to modernizing legislation and institutions not only to cope with changes. This will need to be done in a way that adheres to the principles of a democratic system  that harmonizes the will of the people with that of the need to protect state institutions. We aspire for an honest judiciary and an effective administration, coupled with an unwavering confluence of civil society ambitions and policies of state. This might strengthen political stability, achieve balanced development in all regions of the country, and instill confidence among the Lebanese.

 Our government aims to renew the citizenís confidence in the state and in the political system. Accordingly, it hopes to achieve these goals through the following principles:

 

1. National Accord and Return of the Displaced

 Our government, standing today before your esteemed assembly, is dedicated to strengthening confidence in the State and its system. As such, it aspires to be the government that consolidates national accord and strengthens growth.

 In the past ten years, Lebanon entered an era of social and political reconstruction on the basis of the National Accord Pact and the new Constitution. However, over these past years, the political scene was marked by a number of discussions that created polarization and debate, especially over issues related to the Constitution, separation of state institutions, political and developmental balance, and election laws.

 These are issues that naturally arise in a liberal democratic system such as Lebanonís and constitute a valued pillar of its tradition. Lebanonís democratic system upholds a wide popular participation. Our government insists on grappling with issues that are at the core of National Accord, in accordance with the Constitution and within Constitutional institutions through dialogue initiatives, so as to reach solutions based on national consensus, protection of freedoms and institutions, as well as balance. These principles have upheld Lebanonís stability and prosperity.

 In this context, our government pledges to give top priority to the issue of the displaced, buttressing hitherto achieved reconciliation; removing bureaucratic obstacles and securing adequate and just compensation for those eligible for it through the credit line your esteemed House has already endorsed, and by also creating a suitable atmosphere for an effective, sustainable and productive returns. This can be guaranteed by the concerned ministry in cooperation with other specialized ministries with important links to the issue as they were created for this purpose and whose existence will be terminated once the mission is completed.

The experience of the last decade has taught us that irrespective of the problems enormity coupled with the will of Lebanese people for coexistence and reconciliation, these problems can be resolved. The challenge here is whether representative and constitutional institution are capable of responding to such a will by safeguarding unity and solidarity.

 

2. The Rule of Law and Protection of Citizens

Government performance, as proven by Lebanese experience, cannot be put back on the right track unless rights and freedoms of citizens are guaranteed by the law.

For this reason, the government will give priority to establishing a state of law whose rulers and citizens, in their conduct and actions will be accountable to the law and respect for human rights.

First articles of the Lebanese Constitution are devoted to the rights of citizens, guarantee of individuals freedom, and prohibition of arrest, imprisonment or detention of anyone except in accordance with the law.

The governement will present, to your esteemed Assembly, a draft law that will ensure the effective application of such principles clearly outlining the cases where a judge will be allowed to resort to preventive detention with a timeframe, taking into account the interrogation requirements on one hand, and the protection of citizens freedom and dignity on the other. This is all based on the principle that any measure that negates freedoms is an exception to the rule that an individual is innocent until proven guilty, hence the right of compensation of a detainee in preventive detention in the event that a trial is denied.

 Due to its firm belief in the importance of judiciary in the state of law, the government will endeavor to uphold its independence.

 Thus, it is essential to reconsider some of the practiced laws to guarantee more judicial independence by imposing harsher punishment for interference in the judicial practice. For instance, the prerogatives of the Central Inspection Department of the Judiciary can be broadened to eliminate irregularities.

  

3. Media and Freedoms: A Special Role for Lebanon

 Freedom and democracy are the basic pillars of our political system and the characteristics of Lebanonís existence. For this reason, they have to be safeguarded, developed and practiced. Out of this conviction, our government will guarantee the freedom in the media and be sponsor of a national, democratic dialogue among all the Lebanese.

 Media industry, especially audio-visual sector, has developed significantly in recent year, as a result of the information technology revolution. We have to remain abreast and catch on with the evolution of systems and laws. In this context, the government will seek to bolster the official and private media to enable them to play a role on the local and international scene through satellite transmission. A role that which promotes Lebanonís true image as a haven for freedom, dialogue and diversity, as well as a culture interacting with all cultures, a civilization open to all civilizations and an example of steadfastness and liberation.

 In addition to the media sector, there is an important and sophisticated advertising industry, which has taken great strides in growth, attracting large numbers of the Lebanese youth, while expanding its framework with the spread of cyber information through various outlets.

 Satellite transmission, public relations and advertising have taken important and big steps to expand Lebanonís role in this growing regional and international market. Therefore, it is natural for us to focus on this sector and encourage further steps to ensure its success, give it a wide margin of maneuverability and avoid any action that could harm or restrict its freedom, rapid growth and increasing shares in the Arab and international markets.

 This sector has become a principal component of advanced national industry, attracting creative and production experts with high expertise and qualifications having occupied senior posts in the world at large.

 The previous government had proposed the creation of a media zone, a pioneer proposal with regard to its concept and goals and is beneficial to Lebanoní s economic activity as it moves into the 21st century. The government, however, will retrieve the draft to make some amendments to better serve its purpose, taking into account similar experiences of other countries.

 

4. Attention to the Youth

 Our firm conviction on the role of youth has led us to introduce a special portfolio for this purpose. Our government will strive to firmly support this ministry so it can attract the youth of Lebanon, take   necessary initiatives to reinforce dialogue, instill a unifying patriotic spirit and allow the country to benefit from their potential and expertise.

 This will create an appropriate atmosphere for their active participation in drafting national decisions and charting the course of the future, which is the nerve center of civil society and a prerequisite for progress and a better future. It is their right and duty to participate in public life, and it is our responsibility, Cabinet and Parliament, to give their causes due attention and to prepare them for an era of knowledge armed with unwavering confidence. We must endorse the legislation necessary to achieve these goals.

 The Lebanese youth, in light of the stifling socio-economic crisis  Lebanon is now under, are confronted with the problem of unemployment that is leading to a dangerous trend of immigration in search of employment opportunities abroad thus depriving the nation of high qualifications and modern expertise. The government will seek to invigorate the economy and growth to create job opportunities for the youth and allow Lebanon to benefit from the potential of its youth.

 The Lebanese, especially the younger generation, are following with closer attention sport events. Sports activities have developed on all levels often contributed to displaying a bright image of the country through achievements of Lebanese teams in various games at the local, regional and international level. Our government will give this sector the necessary attention, facilitate its development, create an appropriate atmosphere for its modernization and for encouraging initiatives that strengthen its presence and activate the associations, unions and authorities affiliated with this sector.

 

5. The Role of Women

 Our government is convinced that the Lebanese woman can play an important and principal role in the development of the society. As such it will seek to encourage her presence in the public domain and active participation in the economy through:

 a.      providing her with equal employment opportunities in all public and private sectors

b.     protecting her rights under laws and legislation that enable her to fulfill her duties at the best possible level.

 

6. Strengthening Role of Civil Societies

 Our government stresses its desire to vitalize the role of civil societies and Non-Governmental Organizations so that their resources and capabilities may complement the government  in its effort continual to build a strong and healthy homeland.

 

7. Culture

 Culture is Lebanonís most valuable asset. Our aim is to push the country into a more active role in this sector, which is one of the fastest-growing sectors. Thus, we shall provide free flow of information, invest in human resources, and draw on the experiences of the Lebanese diaspora.

  On the Cultural front, our government will strive for a modern law for restructuring the concerned ministry and for rehabilitating the historical sites of which Lebanon is proud. We will encourage cultural tourism and work to make the summit of Francophone countries, to take place in Lebanon in about a year, into a significant  international event which will strengthen Lebanon's political, economic and cultural relations with more than 50 countries. Local skills and talents can turn Lebanon into the shining star of Arab culture to which it belongs and to which it has made significant qualitative contributions. Our government will encourage artistic and intellectual talents in painting, sculpture, theater and music as well as in the publication and exportation of books and television production, in order for Lebanon to recover its position as the center of modern Arab culture. Intellectual freedoms are guaranteed by the Constitution, it is a government duty to help our writers and artists to expand in the region and in the world at large for this will have a great impact on Lebanon's image abroad and on the national economy.

 

Your Excellency,

Honorable Members of Parliament

 The country is experiencing a social and economic crisis that was caused by a  decline in growth and recession. It is grappling with an increase in unemployment and straining under the weight of a budget deficit and an increase in public debt.

 

Previous experiences have proved that it would be difficult to reduce public spending, which largely goes toward servicing the public debt or paying salaries of government employees. This reality, however, must not discourage us from crafting a long-term plan that would streamline and where possible reduce spending. As such, the government will limit any increase in spending to sectors that could contribute to reactivating the economic cycle, provide impetus for growth and sustain social services.

 Based on this, it is imperative to reduce the budget deficit through activating the economy, achieving sustainable growth and enhancing revenue collection. Combined, this would increase the Treasury's revenue, and gradually reduce the budget deficit.

 Having said that, we believe that policies based on growth are the most successful to remedy the deficit problem. Economic growth allows the government to allocate a larger share of GDP to the Treasury, without affecting citizens income nor having to increase taxes and fees.

 The government will adopt a number of policies, draft laws and measures, which will provide incentives for the private sector and contribute to sustainable growth of  national economy. These include:

 a.      Preparing new draft laws that can contribute to a better investment climate.

b.     Launching projects that have been frozen or slowed down for which financing through soft loans has been secured.

c.     Working toward bolstering confidence in Lebanon and its economic future, including marketing Lebanese commodities and services locally and abroad with our foreign commercial partners.

d.     Adopting policies that would further open up the Lebanese economy, including the policy of open skies, facilitating entry permits and reducing customs barriers and other obstacles.

e.      Simplifying bureaucratic red tape to speed formalities and avoid administrative routine.

f.       Working toward concluding more agreements with the Arab and European economic blocks and the World Trade Organization.

g.     Improving the collection of revenue owed to the Treasury.

h.     Adopting the principle of privatizing projects and facilities, whose sale to the private sector would benefit the national economy and citizens and whose proceeds will be used to reduce the public debt.

i.        Reinforcing the basic principles of the Lebanese economy, upholding legislative stability and respecting state's obligations, commitments and pledges.

j.        Rewarding and granting exemptions to institutions recognized for quality production by concerned international authorities (ISO).

 The greatest challenge facing Lebanon in the future is the revitalization of its free economy so it can become a competitive economy aimed at developing the potential, capabilities and productivity of the Lebanese, in line with the guidelines of the modern economy, to secure job opportunities for citizens and improve living conditions through comprehensive and balanced development.

 Citizens expect us to confront all these challenges, under the strain of the difficult social and economic conditions,  some of them exaggerate and bet that our government could come up with magical solutions. Since we neither wish to give the Lebanese, nor your esteemed House, any optimistic promises, instead we commit ourselves to work on confronting the crisis as much as possible based on the following:

 1.     Protecting financial and monetary stability, which in recent years proved to be the basis of social and economic stability.

2.     Pursuing the reconstruction drive and economic revival to provide growth incentive within the means that are available to the state, and counting on the confidence in the enormous potentials of the Lebanese people and the funds available through signed  agreements with international institutions and friendly countries.

3.     Privatization: We view privatization as one of the policies that provides an incentive for growth. Its economic benefits lie in a more effective administration, and lower public service cost that are to be privatized. It also frees up initiatives on a wide scale, building on world-wide experience of other countries of the past two decades,  many lessons can be drawn. Successful privatization takes into account the type of sector to be privatized and devising the best way of going about it. Privatization has proved to be successful, in competitive areas such as direct sale to strategic investors within government set conditions, or direct sale to the public, where certain facilities become share-holding companies in which the private sector contributes in different proportions. There is also the privatization on concessionnary basis where monopoly exists or the BOT and similar methods of the new economy that need large capital to which the Lebanese, resident and emigrant, could contribute in a way that would avoid monopoly or hegemony. Effective mechanism can monitor facilities that are privatized.

4.     Supporting the private sector and encouraging it to work and expand, creating new employment opportunities and facilitating investment by building on the competitive characteristics of the Lebanese economy, which encourages individual initiatives, by providing the legal cover for property rights, and by enforcing the stability of legislative and tax policies. The government will strive to regulate tax and customs policies and create an appropriate legal and administrative climate to attract investment into the various productive sectors. We will work toward joining the European- Mediterranean Partnership Agreement and the World Trade Organization. We plan to also forge bilateral or group agreements with Arab countries as well as free or industrial zones. We will provide backing to medium and small business, develop industries and modern economic and technological projects for the youth.

5.     We will try to tackle the chronic problem within the administration, by seeking to regulate, simplify, modernize and reduce its size. We will work to improve its productivity by developing and activating the tools and systems of administrative reform, the supervisory bodies and the research and guidance centers and facilitate their cooperation. 

 

 The success of any government program depends on the existence of a modern and developed administration with skillful personnel and high efficiency. This could be achieved through specialized and continuous training programs that take into account  rapid current developments. This administration must realize that its existence and sole perpose is to serve the citizens and economic development needs. It has to always  remain open to both development and modernization and improve efficiency and skills. It has to accept constructive criticism and accountability on the basis of productivity, skills, level and quality of performance. Past experiences have proved that creating such an administration requires a clear plan, steady work and a lot of time. This is also linked to all  political forces who consent, contribution and cooperation are needed to achieve this goal.   

That is why our government will work to propose laws, once we hope your esteemed House would examine and endorse. These will include:

a.      Amending public accounting laws to simplify procedures

b.     Amending the laws of public tendering in order to simplify procedures and render them compatible with international standards.

c.     Amending some laws in the Code of Commerce that govern trade and encourage local and foreign investment in order to introduce new technologies and methods, including e-commerce.

d.     Modernizing municipal laws and enforcing the prerogatives of local governments in order to empower citizens to share in the decision-making process on local and national levels.

e.      Amending the customs law to allow its administration to offer modern, prompt and efficient services. This will galvanize market activity, reduce costs of goods and services, and improve the competitive edge of private sector.

f.       Devising a modern transit law that encourages such activity.

g.     Amending and simplifying a number of construction laws.

h.     Amending a number of laws governing social security in order to redefine its duties and administrative techniques and reduce its cost.

i.        Introducing a rental law in order to regulate on equitable basis relations between landlords and tenants

j.        Regulating and activating public hospitalization. Previous governments have put forward plans for modernizing hospitals and creating new health centers and hospitals. This plan is near completion. We must focus on ways to operate these centers efficiently. Healthcare is always a basic demand, but in social and economic conditions like ours, it becomes even more urgent. Therefore, it is imperative that we focus our efforts on providing health services to citizens in an effective way that will also help reduce the government's health bill. The health and hospitalization bill dramatically increased in recent years, was not matched by the quality of coverage for citizens or preventive care, thus requires urgent consideration. That is why we see a need for an urgent and daring decision that would remove the health sector from the web of polarization and provide a pragmatic solution. It will require  the Health Ministry to be placed directly in charge of healthcare and planning for the future. As well as securing tools and means to provide better citizens coverage through professional and efficient use of available material human resources.

k.     Improving Lebanon's competitive edge in information technology can be achieved through a reconsideration of existing legislation,  developing it to meet international standards through modernizing the communication and information infrastructure. While reconsidering its costs. In addition, renew the commitment to the protection of intellectual property rights so as to attract skills into the country which in turn can be used as a launching pad to markets in the region.

6. Agriculture, and Agricultural Industry

Even though a considerable number of Lebanese citizens are active in agriculture, contribution of this sector to the gross domestic product continues to decline due to three main causes: 1) The scarce investments in modernizing agriculture and diversifying crops, 2) the absence of competitive opportunities for Lebanese produce and 3) rare investment in food production. The government plans to work on solving the problem of irrigation, encourage agricultural industries and enlist Arab economic cooperation in existing and finding new markets for Lebanese produce. This will be done in cooperation with Syria and with expertise in certain agricultural products that would benefit the two countries. The government also plans to activate agricultural guidance, identify alternative crops and encourage high-yield crops. The government will work on allocating the necessary funds to support agricultural exports.

Lebanon's water resources are an important component of national wealth. This has to be developed and protected by a productive strategy through:

a. Protecting underground aquifers and shielding them from pollution

b. Undertaking better use of water projects such as dams and artificial lakes and completing the Litani River project. These projects will be implemented through the best possible means, financed by easily transferable financial protocols with friendly institutions and countries.

c. Creating a modern administrative authority to better utilize water resources and supervise its use in cooperation with the Environment Ministry.

d. Devising a plan for expanding and modernizing the water network in cooperation with the private sector to provide supplies to all the Lebanese regions.

7. Housing Policy

We shall support the government's housing policy and push forward the law governing the work of the Public Institution of Housing and expand its authority to cover new segments of society with limited income. The government will also expand the scope of cooperation among the Public Institution of Housing, private banks and the National Social Security Fund to enforce long-term policies for the medium- and low-income classes.

8. Education     

Education, in its various forms and at all levels, is an urgent national priority. Two dimensions affect this sector: the social dimension that deals with tuition costs, and the political dimension that deals with providing equal opportunity to all. Last but not least, there is the democratic aspect of education related to the nation's future comprehensive and sustainable development. Based on the standards of education and society's ability to adapt to current transformations. Accordingly, the government will give due attention to public schooling so it can absorb all our sons and daughters, they now constitute nearly 50 percent of the student population.

The government intends to reconsider the geographic map of public schooling and at a certain level concentrate on expanding capacity. It also intends to investigate application of new curricula, absorption, correction and their development where necessary. We need to study the educational structure, address problems of teachers in terms of training and raise the encouragement and supervision level.

The government will give special attention to vocational education and strive to implement a plan for setting up technical and vocational academies. In addition to intermediate and high-level technological institutions, work to improve their programs and classify their degrees so such plan can, in quality and quantity, meet labor market needs.

 As for the Lebanese University - the institution we owe our present to and upon which we will build the future of Lebanon - it currently accommodates about 60 percent of university students and is suffering the same problems of other educational institutions.

That is why our government intends to give this praiseworthy institution the utmost care, by creating, in cooperation with the university's Board and the Education Ministry, a new law that will contribute to raising standards at the level of administration, faculty and students.

The government also intends on completing its campus, whose construction has for too long been delayed. The government will remain committed to the academic and administrative independence of the university. It will provide it with all means of support to uphold its prestige and academic standards, through modern laboratories, libraries and research centers, so it can meet the hopes pinned to it in present-day Lebanon and in the future.

9.       The government will proceed with the necessary projects and make use of the funds allocated for Lebanon, whether from international organizations, world funds or friendly and fraternal states. This requires a high degree of openness toward the institutions and countries, Arab or foreign, which have helped Lebanon and could help it in the future. There are agreements and patreaties that have neither been implemented nor sought benefit from them. As well, there are opportunities to attract attention to the rights and potentials of our country. Lebanon has strong credibility among its diaspora community, among its Arab brethren and among regional and international countries and institutions. For this reason, we will invite donor countries to shoulder their responsibilities towards Lebanon.

10. Environment

The environment is one of the priorities of this government. Recent developments have shown that normative environmental decisions can also be economically correct, provided life of people and well being of future generations is the scale, and not that of temporary individual interests.

We call for an environmental state of emergency in Lebanon to   immediately stop environmental destruction and for a clear environmental policy with a set timetable. The environmental management we are calling for is not a supplement to development programs but a vital component of any effort to solve problems, such as air and water pollution and the chaotic use of land and organizing industries.

It is imperative to set up a national scientific institution for the environment, which will delve into research and studies and set  appropriate guidelines.

This would provide credible national environmental policies, instead of having to react to developments, providing first-aid treatments, whose impact, at best, would delay the problem or move it from one place to another.

Cooperation between the Environment Ministry and other ministries is crucial providing permanent solutions to the issues of rock and sand quarries. Implementing a comprehensive awareness plan will expose our future generations to basic principles that are incorporated into the programs of the media, schools and civil society.

The aspired-for environmental policy must not be restricted to punishment to deter offenders. It must be the cornerstone for any modern policy that will encourage individuals and institutions to take measures to protect the environment. We must provide them with financial support and tax exemptions and impose taxes and penalties on the polluters.

We must all, citizens and leaders in politics, in the intellectual world, in industry and trade, work together to provide a healthy environment for the future generations.

 

11. Public Works and Transport

The government intends to put in place a new policy for road maintenance, taking into consideration the possibility of having to privatize some of these projects. We can benefit from the credits to improve efficiency at lower costs and  based on a geographic information system that would define maintenance needs, identify  benefits and set up a priority system.

As for urban planning, the government will work on a general plan for organizing Lebanese territories. This will support balanced development, while protecting natural wealth on the levels of agriculture, forestation and archaeology. Also, there will be expanded work on the zoning efforts to determine land ownership.

As for transport, the government will devise a comprehensive policy based on complementary roles for the public and private sectors, separating the organizational and supervisory requirements of this policy and its efficiency. The main task of the government will be the creation of a transport strategy and the establishment of the guidelines for its structure, while reducing the public sector's role in operating tools of transportation.

This will require new laws that define the organizational and supervisory role of the non-governmental authorities, and their place in the hierarchy.

The government sees a need for urgent attention to air transport to catch up with the rapid developments in this field through the adoption of the open-skies policy. The government will create a special entity dedicated to civil aviation.

In maritime transportation, we see a need for a masterplan to regulate commercial, tourist, fishing and holiday ports along the entire coast.

As for land transportation, the government wants to transform the railroad and joint transportation departments from competing authorities to a single regulatory body that would run the industry buses and lay the foundations for new regulations to restructure the administration in line with its organizational and supervisory role.

The government will strive to provide public transport, including railroad, to all Lebanese territories, which would provide another economic incentive, reduce fuel costs and lessen environmental pollution.

As for the movement of cargo, we will continue to work towards lessening the cost of internal as well as cross-border transportation in cooperation with fraternally neighboring countries.

 

12. Tourism

Tourism has become a worldwide industry in which all countries are competing. It is based on a modern vision of the tourism revenue that supercedes holidaymaking to incorporate our wealth of culture, heritage and civilization. The government will seek to:

a. Promote investment in the tourist sector and protect our touristic and environmental wealth. The government will adopt policies that propose legislation and measures that will contribute to the development of the tourism sector, encourage the travel to Lebanon, promote tourism information and widen the Lebanese market to include cultural and healthy tourism.

b. Revitalize Lebanon's role in the regional and international associations, especially the Arab Association for Tourism, the   International Union of State Organizations for Tourists, and the International Union of Travel and Tourist Agencies.

c.  Improve the tourist industry through lowering costs and upgrading quality. This can be achieved by developing the quality of services offered by those working in the sector and in providing training.

d.  Open new markets and encourage tour packages in cooperation with neighboring Arab countries.

 

13. Industry

 

The government views the industry as a promising sector. It is aware of the role it could play in economic revival and in increasing the Gross Domestic Product as well as in finding new work opportunities for the youth to discourage immigration.

The government is bent on taking the necessary steps to create a better investment climate to ensure the growth of this sector.

The government will give priority to simplifying the establishment of industrial facilities, focusing on lowering production costs and improving productivity to provide better opportunities for competition.

In this regard, it will encourage new investments in developed industries, especially in the field of information technology and education, and find outside markets for such products through balanced agreements and an effective role of Lebanon's missions abroad.

 

14. Labor

The government shall seek to establish the best possible relations between employers and employees. It will strive for an appropriate climate that would elevate standards of professionalism and productivity. It will seek to provide professional training and guidance, especially directing youth areas needed at present and will be needed in the future.

The government will encourage professional training in rural areas, which will provide job opportunities and curb migration from rural areas to the cities.

As for labor unions, the government will strive to consecrate and defend union freedoms on the basis that labor demands must match sustainable growth in productivity, which would help fortify economic stability and sustain the country's competitive abilities.

Our first aim is to stop the economic recession and stagnation, in preparation for a new era, God willing, of recovery and growth, whereby the negative repercussions of stagnation will begin to diminish.

What is urgently required is a change in the mood of recession and pessimism. This can only be achieved through freeing up of all channels and opportunities for action on the financial, construction and economic fronts.

The government will request the retrieval of the budget draft to re-submit to your esteemed House a draft that reflects these views.

We depend on your cooperation, in these difficult times, to move on to a future built on the potentials of the Lebanese people and on the confidence, the Lebanese have in themselves, their society and country., They vouchsafe such confidence to their government and political system.

 

Your Excellency, Mr. Speaker,

Your Excellencies, the MPs

Confronting these challenges and demands will not be possible without your understanding of our country's role within its milieu and  the world at large. For this reason, Lebanese diplomacy will focus on improving Lebanon's presence among the Arabs and to strengthen its stature in the world.

A pragmatic reading of events in the region exposes Israelís firm commitment to its positions, which reject the implementation of international resolutions in order to achieve a comprehensive and just peace. Moreover, its reseind of agreements signed and constant attempt to impose its conditions. That is why Lebanon needs to remain prepared, to face the challenges of the coming era and the repercussions of the current regional situation. This requires true national unity to elevate the national interests and fate of the country above all other considerations. More than ever before, it necessitates alliance, cooperation and solidarity with Syria and the deepening of mutual confidence. We are confident that the Lebanese-Syrian experience, in constant cooperation and coordination is the most important achievement of this phase in the history of the region. It spelled out the defeat of Israel, forcing it to abide by international resolutions and accordingly withdraw from Lebanese territories. It also   rightly vindicated our views regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict and how to manage the struggle with Israel.

Although the liberation struggle has ended the Israeli occupation of most of our territories, we must not forget that there is still a stretch of land under occupation that has to be recovered and there are still detainees in Israeli prisons that have to be liberated. In addition, the problem of Palestinian presence in Lebanon which has to be solved in accordance with our absolute rejection of their settlement here, and  acknowledgment of the Palestinians' right of return to their homeland.

To achieve this, Lebanon still needs the backing of Syria, whose military presence on our soil is necessary, legitimate and temporary. It is dictated by the strategic requirements agreed upon by both our governments and is linked to the developments surrounding us. We also emphasize that independence and sovereignty are two principles that have the unanimous support of all Lebanese. We do not believe that anyone in our country would compromise on either of these principles nor can anyone upstage the other by their commitment.

As such, it is important for the Lebanese to rally behind their principles and national goals. Also, if the strong confidence between Syria and Lebanon is based on openness, sincerity and commitment to the joint national interests and goals, then that is the guarantee for the true meaning of these relations. We can build on the positive aspects and remedy the challenges or loopholes we might face. In such a spirit, we can discuss our issues and propose our views, away from any impulsive or rash actions.

Our government pledges its commitment to this course. It will give the Treaty of Brotherhood and Cooperation with Syria special attention that will be up to the standard of the special relations and mutual aspirations of the two fraternal countries. It will allow economic relations to rise to the level of the political relations, because these relations stretch beyond the issues of liberation to lay the foundations for a joint future between the two countries.

This can be achieved through the proper implementation of the treaty and relevant agreements that came later. These will remove the barriers and obstacles that impede the creation of an appropriate atmosphere for economic development in a complementary and balanced manner through establishing joint ventures, encouraging investment, facilitating movement across the border, as well as exchanging technological expertise and services which would benefit both countries.

We are convinced that there are wide horizons for economic cooperation between Syria and Lebanon that can open many doors for the productive institutions in both countries. They can specialize in more competitive products and services in large and open markets, which will surely benefit us all.

The government hopes to contribute to solidarity among our Arab brethren and strengthen bilateral as well as group cooperation. We are also committed to strengthening economic coordination and cooperation that could culminate in the rise of an Arab economic bloc able t cope with the changing times in an era of open and advanced economies.

Our government and the Lebanese citizens nation-wide stand firmly behind the Palestinian people in their uprising to liberate their land, recover their sovereignty and unity,  establish their own independent state with Jerusalem as its capital and to secure the return of the refugees.

Our government strongly deplores the brutal war, Israel is waging against the Palestinians. It will work hard to ensure that our Palestinian brethren achieve their right of return of their homes, as it is a legitimate right upheld by international conventions and United Nations resolutions. The government will remain unequivocally committed to the pre-amble of our Constitution, which firmly rejects any settlement in Lebanon under any pretext and in any form.

As for relations with Europe, our government will seek to enhance relations with the European Union, as a prestigious regional organization with influence on the international arena and we shall endeavor to conclude economic partnership with it. Simultaneously, we will seek to improve bilateral relations with influential and friendly European countries to secure uninterrupted support for Lebanon and the safety of its territory. We will seek to expand cultural and technological cooperation as well as trade exchange.

As for relations with superpowers and international organizations, Lebanon has in recent years maintained an active diplomacy through mutual visits, bilateral agreements and persistent contact with regional and international organizations and foremostly was the secretariat of the United Nations. This restored to Lebanon its reputation and presence on the international scene. It also provided Lebanon on many occasions with support in the face of Israeli aggression, helped press for the implementation of international resolutions and solicited assistance for the reconstruction and economic recovery efforts.

The government intends to activate Lebanon's embassies abroad to improve contacts with sisterly and friendly countries and to strengthen the bonds between the resident Lebanese and the emigrants. We will seek ways to help the emigrants to join forces, improve cooperation and confidence among them and encourage use of their resources to serve Lebanese national goals, such as the liberation of the land, creating investment opportunities and attract capital investments. We will encourage them to lobby international powers and institutions as well as regional institutions on behalf of Lebanese and Arab causes.

 

Your Excellency, Mr. Speaker

The honorable members of Parliament

Confidence in our country stems from our own confidence in our people, ourselves, our political system and in our ability to confront the challenges. Our government, which today stands before your esteemed Parliament, is raising the slogan of strengthening confidence in the citizen, the state, and the parliamentary democratic political system. It is your confidence that we need to complete the liberation drive and build the liberated territory and rehabilitate it into the national development drive.

We need, and ask, for this vote of confidence to face the enormous challenges and transformations of the 21st century. The challenges we need to confront are those of development and modernization; building of human resources, ensuring sustainable and comprehensive development, confronting  the challenges of competition and progress in the Arab arena and the world at large.

This government was formed, thanks to the continuous and constructive cooperation with his Excellency, the President of the Republic. We wanted it to represent the majority of the political and regional forces. Our ambition is that it will win the support of all the Lebanese and we, in our work, can prove worthy of this confidence.

With a firm commitment to cooperation and solidarity, and in accordance with the Constitution, our government asks of this esteemed House a vote of confidence so it can proceed with its work in providing the Lebanese people with their needs, fulfilling their ambitions and confronting national demands and responsibilities awaiting us, both as a Parliament and as a government.

 

Long Live Lebanon