Kataeb leader Samy Gemayel on Friday stressed that Lebanon is a small country that can be easily destroyed as much as it can be easily rescued, accusing the ruling authority of not lifting a finger to pull the country out of its economic bottleneck.
"We can revive our country and its economy at a fast speed if we have the will to do so," Gemayel stressed during a press conference at the party's headquarters in Saifi.
"Small, yet bold, steps can make a drastic change and move the country from stagnation to advancement,” he emphasized.
“People are being totally misled and it's our duty as an opposition to tell them the truth."
Gemayel deemed the 2019 draft budget as unconstitutional, saying that it includes wrong figures.
"The budget does not include any measures that would lead to economic revival. On the contrary, it would lead to economic recession, rise in the cost of living, and a decrease in purchasing power," Gemayel warned. "The budget, as presented, would encourage goods smuggling via illegal border passages."
“There is a striking violation of the Constitution as the budget covers a period of only six months while it should have covered one year, and given that the audit of previous years' financial accounts were not referred to the Parliament prior to the budget endorsement," Gemayel explained.
“All the budget numbers are false because the plan applies to a period of one year, whereas only six months are still remaining from this year."
“They are estimating the deficit to be 7.59% while all global rating agencies issued different numbers ranging between 8.5%, 9% and 9.5%,” he blasted.
Gemayel pointed out that the state's expenses were only reduced by a few millions of dollars compared to last year, adding that no drastic change has been made with this regard.
“Figures included in the draft budget prove that no efforts have been made to reduce the state's spending," he noted.
Gemayel said that simple measures could’ve been introduced to bring down expenditures, such as travelling budget allocated to state officials.
"How is it possible that officials in a bankrupt country travel in big numbers and with business class tickets?!" he wondered.
Gemayel blasted the government for imposing further taxes in order to boost its revenues, warning that the new levies will reduce the purchasing power of the Lebanese.
"A two percent tax hike has been imposed on imports, and that would lead to even higher prices and catastrophic results. This tax affects all products, except raw material and some industrial equipment which were already exempted. Other than that, all imported goods will be subject to an additional 2% tax," he pointed out. "Expect the price of all foreign products to rise, and we all know that most of the items we use on a daily basis are imported."
“The ruling authority hasn't learned yet that the more taxes we impose, the lesser earnings we receive. A year ago, levies were enforced and the intake turned out to be lower than the estimated $1.5 billion, so we have a big question mark on all those estimations,” Gemayel said.
The Kataeb leader blasted the absence of any study that assesses the impact of the new planned taxes, saying that past experiences have shown the negative repercussions of such a reckless behavior.
Gemayel warned that the budget, as presented by the government, will yield three main results: a rise in the cost of living which will blow the people's purchasing power, drop in investments which will lead to a higher unemployment rate, and a surge in smuggling to the high prices.
“Consider this press conference as a stimulus to amend the budget, put things on the right track and set out an economic plan to create new job opportunities and encourage investments," Gemayel stressed.
"Boosting the state's revenues should not take place by harming the people, but rather by controlling illegal border passages to put an end to smuggling, and getting rid of all illegal hires which are weighing down the government through the salaries it is paying."
“We have proved in the past years that we were reading the numbers right, and we will continue to uncover flaws so that the state would take responsibility for its actions," he affirmed.
As the Parliament is set to discuss the draft budget before ratifying it, Gemayel called on lawmakers who are part of blocs represented in the government to abstain from "farces", demanding them to assume responsibility for just one time.
"If they feel unsatisfied, then let them resign from the government and join us in the opposition ranks," he concluded.