BEIRUT — Najib Mikati’s cabinet convened Monday morning for the first time since Oct. 12, before adjourning shortly after 11 a.m. without tackling the 2022 draft budget. It is set to reconvene Tuesday at 9 a.m. for a session scheduled to run until 3 p.m. during which it will turn its attention to the budget.
Here’s what we know:
• During Monday’s meeting, the government addressed and approved all the items on its 56-item agenda except the proposed budget for 2022 and a decision on the internal regulations of the National Human Rights Commission, which was also postponed.
• Among the cabinet’s decisions Monday were the approval of an increased private sector transportation allowance of LL65,000 per day of attendance, a public sector transportation allowance of LL64,000 per day, and a monthly transportation compensation for soldiers and members of the security forces of LL1.2 million. The cabinet also approved “temporary assistance” to public sector workers, including retirees with pensions.
• Cabinet also made the first ever appointments to the National Anti-Corruption Commission, created by Law 175 of 2020, with Judge Claude Karam taking over as president. Karam was President of the Court of Cassation's First Chamber before retiring from the position in May 2020.
• The cabinet also doubled wages for hourly contractors working in public schools and vocational institutes for the 2021-2022 academic year. In his capacity as education minister Halabi called on permanent faculty teachers and hourly contract teachers to return to work starting tomorrow morning saying, “the promises have been fulfilled.” Public school teachers have been on strike since the holidays over inadequate wages.
• In his capacity as acting information minister — a role he was assigned following George Kurdahi’s resignation in early December — Education Minister Abbas Halabi said the meeting’s atmosphere was calm and there was a “productive give and take” among the ministers, adding “the fact that the cabinet went through the long agenda in a short period of time is a sign that the session was peaceful.”
• Speaking ahead of the cabinet session, President Michel Aoun said that the interruption of the cabinet meetings had “negatively affected the productivity of the authorities and this has negative repercussions on the general situation of the country.” Aoun added that he hoped the session would be “productive and fruitful,” calling on all participants to be open for discussions and collaborations. For his part, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said that during the session there would be “a lot of urgent matters to cover in order to ensure the citizens’ rights are not taken away from them.”
• Mikati and Aoun met briefly before the session started.
• The last meeting of Mikati's cabinet was adjourned due to a disagreement among its members about taking a position on Judge Tarek Bitar's leadership of the investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion. Bitar's leadership is being challenged by Amal and Hezbollah-affiliated ministers, who claim Bitar has “politicized” the investigation. While this issue remains unresolved, Amal and Hezbollah agreed a week ago to attend a cabinet meeting to discuss the budget.