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Once again, the government has granted salary increases to public sector employees, disregarding the fundamental recommendations for public sector reforms.

The Council of Ministers, led by Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, met on Wednesday at the Grand Serail and approved a salary increase for public sector employees ranging from a minimum of $400 to a maximum of $1,200. This decision is retroactive, effective December 1, 2023, and salaries will be paid in fresh dollars.

Following is a detailed list of the salary increase allocations:

*Active duty soldiers will receive an additional 3 salaries, bringing their total to 9 salaries per month.

*Retirees: an additional 3 salaries, so the total amount they get increases to 9 salaries per month.

*Administrative staff: 2 additional salaries, increasing the total amount they get to 9 salaries per month.

*Monthly bonus for public sector employees based on specific productivity standards (which ones exactly?).

*Daily attendance allowance rewarded with some fuel vouchers, ranging from 8 to 16 gallons of fuel. The employee benefiting from this allowance must ensure attendance for at least 14 working days.

*The monthly payroll cost amounts to 10.7 trillion Lebanese pounds.

*The additional cost of the salary scale is 2.9 trillion Lebanese pounds.

The Executive Disapproves

All indications point to the fact that the government has not learned from recent history, mainly the enactment of the public sector employees’ salary scale in 2017. This led to the state’s financial downfall as it heavily borrowed to finance salary increases.

However, several caretaker ministers, including the Ministers of Information, Industry, and Transport, present at Wednesday’s Council of Ministers meeting, tried to reassure the public. They stated that the funding for the salary increase is secured and emphasized the government’s adherence to the ceiling of budget reserves allocated for supporting public sector employees.

Somewhat peculiar statements, considering that members of the Executive disagree on the amount of budget reserves. Some have put forward the figure of 1.8 trillion pounds, while others mention 2.35 trillion pounds, 2.7 trillion pounds, and 2 trillion pounds.

50,000 Teachers

Instead of initiating a restructuring of the public sector and implementing automation in government administrations, the state has opted to sign and to turn a blind eye, as it always does. As is widely known, the public sector is overstaffed due to patronage hiring policies. In this context, it is worth recalling that the school education sector alone employs 50,000 teachers, while these same public sector employees receive allowances in the form of school grants for their children’s education.

The current monthly salary cost stands at 120 trillion pounds, which accounts for 40% of the projected expenses in the 2024 budget.

It is simply outrageous to even begin to address the consequences of the crisis before tackling the root causes that triggered it. The state is negotiating with a dilapidated, rotten, and corrupt public sector.