De Freij differs with Khalil on public sector wage issue

Minister Nabil De Freij speaks during an interview in Beirut, Friday, Feb. 28, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: State Minister for Administrative Reform Nabil de Freij Tuesday urged the finance minister to apply the old laws that authorize extra-budgetary spending to pay public sector employees’ future salaries.

“I suggest that the existing laws be applied and everything will be just fine,” de Freij said in an interview with The Daily Star.

De Freij pointed to three legal texts, including one under the Public Accounting Law adopted by the Cabinet in 2006, which state that the government can issue a decree legalizing capital reserve funding in the event that ministries run out of money.

Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said Monday Parliament needs to pass a law authorizing the Cabinet to issue foreign-currency denominated debt and to approve extra-budgetary spending, prompting concerns that civil servant salaries would go unpaid.

“These are three clear texts and the one approved in 2006 is still in effect today,” de Freij stressed.

“Ask him [Khalil],” he said, when asked why the finance minister sparked the issue given that the law is still binding.

De Freij, however, played down concerns over the issue, saying: “I don’t think anyone would want to deprive public servants, who already get meager pay, of their livelihood.”

He reiterated the Future Movement-led March 14 stance, which rejects making any laws amid the presidential vacuum, but stressed the need for legislative sessions to be held on matters of urgency.

De Freij signaled out two urgent matters: settling $800 million Eurobonds payment which is due in August and the controversial salary scale issue.

“These are important matters and lawmakers should go to Parliament to vote on these issues,” he said.





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