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September 14, 2020
The Government Monitor No. 16 – The French-Endorsed Plan: Rebranding Old Reforms


What’s the Issue at Hand?
Ahead of the formation of a new cabinet, French President Emmanuel Macron presented Lebanon’s political establishment with a list of reform commitments that need to be implemented before unlocking foreign aid.1 The paper outlined 34 measures covering 15 policy areas―most of which pertained to governance, anti-corruption, and the electricity sector―and set timelines for the implementation of 24 of those. The plan requires the majority of the commitments (20) to be achieved within one month of the government gaining confidence, two within the first three months, one by the end of this year, and one within one year.2 In addition, the measures in the French-endorsed plan can be distinguished based on their nature, as six were temporary measures, two were broad principles, and 26 were specific reform steps.
 
While the adoption of the French-endorsed plan is vital for the country’s recovery, nearly half (12) of the reform steps had been iterated in past documents―such as the ministerial statements of Hassan Diab (2020) and Saad Hariri (2019), as well as the CEDRE reform plan (2018)―raising serious concerns on the political will of the political establishment to implement these measures.
 
 
1. Temporary Measures
The six temporary measures are mostly related to social protection and relief efforts, albeit not delimited by timeframes. These measures aim to control the pandemic outbreak and protect the most vulnerable populations, facilitate the distribution of foreign aid in a transparent manner, conduct an impartial investigation into the port blast, and jumpstart reconstruction works.
 
2. Broad Principles
The French-endorsed plan requires the next government to adopt two overarching principles, which would give a message of commitment to undertake change. These are:
  • Resuming talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and approving the preventive measures requested by the fund.
  • Regularly communicating with civil society groups regarding their reform programs.
 
3. Reform Steps
The reform measures address 10 policy areas: Governance (6), anti-corruption and smuggling (4), the electricity sector (4), public procurement (2), public finance (2), the financial crisis (2), the judicial system (2), parliamentary elections (2), IMF negotiations (1), and social protection (1).
Some of the notable reform steps from the French-endorsed plan include:
  • Approving the laws on judicial independence and capital controls (within one month).
  • Conducting merit-based appointments in the governance and regulatory structures of the electricity sector and the supreme judicial council (within one month).
  • Launching a comprehensive audit of the accounts of the Central Bank (within one month).
  • Appointing the members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and delegating it with the necessary authority (within one month).
  • Following-up on the CEDRE conference and launch a website that monitors the implementation of the related reforms and projects (within one month).
  • Approving a national budget law (by the end of the year).
  • Reforming the electoral law to increase the likelihood of political representation from civil society groups (within one year).
 
 
Why is this Important?
The French president waved the threat of sanctions against the political establishment and demanded the formation of a cabinet and undertaking key reforms before disbursing a foreign aid package. With the dismal track record of the country’s executive and legislative branches, the political establishment is under local and international pressures to adopt a reform program.
 
 
Background
Following former Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s resignation, his cabinet has unequivocally failed to abide by its ministerial statement.3 Ahead of the formation of a new government, the French president met with the political establishment to agree on a reform program as condition for receiving foreign aid. While Lebanon’s financial crisis is intensifying and a social one is looming, the country is in dire need of strong leadership and political consensus over reforms.
 
 
1 Al-Akhbar. September 2, 2020. “The French Paper: Ministerial Statement to the Pine Palace Government.” https://www.al-akhbar.com/Politics/293330.
2 One of the measures include setting a timetable for the negotiations with the IMF within the first 15 days in office.
3 The Government Monitor No. 12.February 2020. “The Ministerial Statement Falls Short of Addressing The Financial Crisis.” The Lebanese Center for Policy Studies.







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