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|19 March, 2019

Lebanon's president: No immunity for the corrupt

Aoun expressed hope that corruption will be seriously tackled before the beginning of Ramadan.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun is seen at the presidential palace in Baabda, Lebanon, November 7, 2017.

REUTERS/Mohamed Azakir

BEIRUT: President Michel Aoun Monday called for lifting of political immunity from any corrupt individual or official in Lebanon.

“We must resist today to improve the economy. Resistance is not only confined to the achievement of freedom, sovereignty and independence,” Aoun told the participants in the opening of the national campaign to revive the Lebanese economy which was held at Baabda Presidential Palace.

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He added that the battle against corruption had started, adding that no one was immune to this campaign. “I am the biggest example in Lebanon. I didn’t defend myself but rather the judges dismissed all the charges. Hence, everyone should stand trial [in case he is charged with corruption],” the president said.

The event was attended by ministers, lawmakers, business leaders, bankers and leading economists.

Aoun expressed hope that corruption will be seriously tackled before the beginning of Ramadan.

He added that Lebanon was negatively affected by the international economic crisis and the volatile situation in the region as well as the presence of Israel in the south.

“The closure of the border with neighboring Syria has made it very difficult for Lebanon to export its goods to other countries. The exports of these goods to the Arab states through other routes have become very expensive,” the president said.

He maintained that the other reason for the current economic slowdown in Lebanon was due to the fact that the country counted only on non-productive sectors for many years. Aoun explained that Lebanon should focus more on developing the industrial and agricultural sectors.

Nicolas Chammas, the president of Beirut Traders Association, emphasized the need to stage a media and advertising campaign to promote investment in Lebanon.

He reminded that the Lebanese merchant has remained steadfast despite all the difficulties he faced over the years.

Saad Azhari, the chairman of BLOM Bank, said the banking sector has contributed a lot to the development of the Lebanese economy.

Azhari added that the banking sector loans to the private sector has exceed 100 percent of the country’s GDP. “The subsidized loans reached $15 billion and the share of the youth under the age of 40 from this loan program was 60 percent,” he added.

But Azhari noted that the fiscal deficit has reached 11 percent of the GDP in 2018 due to the introduction of the salary scale to the civil servants and public school teachers.

He called for the reduction of this deficit to 8 percent of the GDP in accordance with the conditions to CEDRE conference.

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