PLO intensifies talks for Palestinian National Council session

President Mahmoud Abbas
Updated 13 August 2017

PLO intensifies talks for Palestinian National Council session

AMMAN: The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) executive committee decided Saturday to intensify discussions aimed at reaching an agreement to hold a full session of the Palestine National Council (PNC) parliament-in-exile.
The decision follows a recommendation by the Fatah Central Committee to convene a full session of the PNC in order to elect a new executive committee and central council, and to approve a political program.
Hamadeh Faraneh, a member of the PNC, welcomed the call but expressed reservations about the idea of holding the meeting in Ramallah.
“The problems with holding the PNC in Ramallah are twofold,” Faraneh said. “It needs both a political consensus and a legal quorum.”
Political consensus would require national reconciliation, at least within the PLO factions. And in order to have a legal session, members would have to appear in person and not via video conferencing, Faraneh told Arab News. Some PNC members living outside of Palestine may refuse to come to occupied areas or may be barred by the Israelis from entering.
The question of holding the PNC outside of Ramallah could produce political problems with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Following the suspension of security coordination with Israel, Abbas is no longer as mobile as he was. And holding a PNC session in nearby Amman or Cairo might be seen as having political meanings or weakening the independence of the PLO.
One possibility, Faraneh suggests, is to hold the PNC session in Algiers. The 1988 session held in Algiers witnessed the declaration of the state of Palestine by Yasser Arafat.


Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

Updated 26 min 14 sec ago

Lebanon’s Aoun vows to tend to economic, financial reforms

  • Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity”
  • He expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October"

BEIRUT: Lebanon is expected to begin implementing in October a set of economic and financial measures agreed by its top leadership that will boost economic growth, President Michel Aoun said on Sunday, vowing that he would to tend to this himself.
He was referring to decisions taken at a top-level meeting earlier this month with the aim of reviving an economy that has been growing slowly for years and is struggling with one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
After the Aug. 9 meeting, Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri said agreed steps included finishing the 2020 budget on time, drawing up a plan to start $3.3 billion of projects approved by parliament, full implementation of a power sector reform plan, and laws to fight tax evasion and regulate public tenders.
“I will personally tend to the implementation path of the decisions of the financial and economic meeting” in cooperation with Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and other parties in government, Aoun said.
In written comments to Reuters, Aoun said this aimed “to guarantee political stability in cabinet and outside it and to secure the greatest amount of productivity,” including in the implementation of the 2019 budget and its reforms.
Aoun said he expected “the implementation path” to begin “with the start of October after the conclusion of the current preparations ... which will lead to lifting of the growth rates, reflecting positively on the economic and financial situations.”
After years of backsliding on economic reform, the impetus to act has grown due to economic stagnation and a slowdown in the flow of dollars into Lebanon’s banks from abroad. Lebanon has depended on such flows from its diaspora to finance the current account and the state budget deficits.
Foreign governments and donor institutions last year pledged $11 billion in financing to Lebanon for major infrastructure at the so-called Cedre conference in Paris, on condition that it carries out reforms.
Measures to reduce the budget deficit and reform the power sector, which bleeds public funds while inflicting daily power cuts on Lebanese, are seen as two vital tests of the government’s ability to reform.
The International Monetary Fund said in July this year’s deficit is likely to be well above a targeted 7.6% of national output.
It said the power reform plan and a budget to reduce the deficit were “very welcome first steps” and “further substantial fiscal adjustment and structural reforms” were needed.
Aoun said work was underway to approve the 2020 budget in the constitutional timeframe.
It would include “new, resolute reforms” agreed at the Aug. 9 meeting to reduce the power sector deficit, improve tax collection and fight customs and tax evasion.
Aoun also said frameworks must be put in place for implementing a plan drawn up by management consulting firm McKinsey for revamping the economy and this should coincide with the start of projects outlined at the Cedre conference.