Below is the English transcript of Dr Atie appearance on Loubnan Al Yawm with Pierre Al Bayeh in January. The talk was centred on the financial situation in Lebanon after the October revolution. At the bottom of the article, you can find the Arabic video for the same.
Currently, everyone is asking whether this new government will be able to rectify the financial situation in Lebanon by creating a different economic climate. What is your opinion regarding this matter?
This government should really be regarded as a provisional government. The files that need to be taken up by this government are not normal files; they are complicated and directly related to the fate of the country as a whole. Whether or not this government will be able to succeed is related to many different, political, economic, security as well as regional factors. Politically, our leaders should give this government a chance to act by granting it the full liberty to treat the situation as accurately as possible.
By this, you mean that the leaders who have endorsed these new ministers should allow them to act?
I don’t only mean the new government; I mean the opposition, the government and the protestors. We cannot assume that the current government will be approved by the opposing party because it has its own stance towards it. The protestors also need to give this government a chance to prove itself since it has the potential to make a difference especially that it features reputable names who are skilled enough to pull the country out of the challenges it is currently facing.
How long do you think it should take before the public can stop to evaluate the efficiency of this government?
We all know that there’s a big burden that cannot be uplifted overnight. Solving this crisis will take plenty of time. It would require at least three to six months for proper strategic planning to be implemented and to perhaps begin to yield results. We need to invest in long term reforms because, as we all know, the present deteriorating economic situation can lead to problems that are much more critical. The French have a term for this, “La radicalization de la revolution” whose landmarks we have begun to witness. What the public can do for the time being is allow these ministers to rapidly work on these files- especially those pertaining to corruption and wastefulness which has been feeding off of the treasury of the state for so long.
Dr. we were discussing earlier how, on one hand, we have a minister who says she has the issue of recovering the stolen funds as her main focus, while on the other we have the protestors pointing fingers at all her fellow politicians from the nineties. Would she be able to confront other members of the government and ask them to return these sums of money to the treasury?
I hope and wish that when a minister is making such a claim, she has enough endorsement to be able to implement because we cannot continue with the current corruption. The country is not bankrupt, the country has been robbed time and again. If this decree is not put into action, then we will continue with this system of corruption endlessly.
But Dr., we’ve had the anti-corruption ministry within our previous government for almost four years and not one corrupt politician or leader was ever arrested or brought to justice.
Mr Pierre, allow me to make a vital comment about this issue. Corruption is not exposed in a consensual government. It is only uncovered in a system that is truly democratic where the governing party’s integrity and efficiency are always tested by an opposing movement. In a context as such, governments would start wanting to prove their validity to their people. Unlike the previous governments which were simply quota governments where each wants to cover up for the mistakes of the other. Before, I would say we were definitely living under a corrupt government, but now, this government or perhaps another would be different as long as they are not consensual governments. Democracy necessitates different sides and, above all, accountability. If there is no accountability, there is no way you can bring corruption to court. We shouldn’t have a Ministry of Anti-Corruption, we should have a separate, independent committee which would be able to act as an inspecting body. Just as the juridical authority needs to be independent, so does this body. This will allow the members of this anti-corruption committee to work on various files without receiving threatening phone calls from any leader which might cause them to drop certain ‘problematic’ files.
Some people consider that the Minister of Finance, Ghazi Wazni, still follows the same system used in previous governments. We’ve also seen him ask donors and donor countries to lend Lebanon certain sums of money for the procurement of fuel, medication, and bread. In other words, we’re back to the previous financing methods.
I personally don’t think I am in a position that allows me to defend the government or Minister Wazni. The minister is an economist, an educated man, and a man with high moral standards. It would be faulty to assume that he is “adopting” this method. It’s technically his first real day in office. In fact, what he’s asking is very clear. He’s asking to be able to provide for these pressing necessities in the short term which, if we pay close attention, is quite different from what the previous approaches were. In effect, it is the very results of these policies that have gotten us where we are now. We are currently facing an emergency that needs to be dealt with, and the only possible solution is temporary loans. In reality, without these loans, the country would suffer a shock on the social level, whose repercussions – in turn, would lead to consequences on the national security level. We should not be holding the minister accountable for doing the only thing that can be done at this stage. Later on, the government will be able to work with the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy, and the Governance regarding the homogeneity of the fiscal, monetary and economic policy in a way that creates harmony between these ministries and the adopted policies so we can avoid the accumulation of debt and rid the government of burdens which would weigh it down with the lack of proper planning.