|Saba announces new economic association (Daily Star)
|Group to express views on policy
Prominent economists and researchers will analyze Lebanon's economy, and hold special conferences and workshops
Finance Minister designate Elias Saba announced on Tuesday the creation of the Lebanese Economic Association to carry out economic research and express views on certain governmental financial policies.
The association, which includes prominent economists and researchers, is the first of it kind in Lebanon according to the founders.
Saba, who was named Finance Minister on Tuesday, declined to make direct comments about his new post.
"I don't want to talk about the government budget or the policies until I take responsibility," Saba told reporters.
Saba will assume the post as the country faces numerous internal and external challenges.
One of the immediate challenges for Saba is to come up with a 2005 budget bill to appease the market and assure all international monetary agencies that Lebanon is still committed to the principles of the Paris II donor conference.
Saba declined to comment on outgoing Finance Minister Fouad Siniora's 2005 draft budget. However, President Emile Lahoud told the head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Monday that he was committed to the fiscal policies implemented by former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri's government.
"I attended the talks between the IMF and Prime Minister designate Omar Karami a few days ago," Saba said without elaborating further.
Saba had criticized Siniora's bill in the past, which calls for wide cuts in government spending and the closure of some ministries and public departments.
Saba said that the new association will also organize conferences and workshops on various economic issues. The association will also grant university scholarships for individuals to help understand new economic concepts.
Saba added that the association groups economists who have differing views on economic issues.
"That's the beauty of the association. Economics is a form of science and for this reason some of the economists may diagnose the problems facing Lebanon in different ways," he said.
Saba said that the association would not hesitate to give advice to the government if it requested it.
Some of the members attending the news conference agreed that Lebanon's public debt, estimated at $35 billion, was one of the biggest challenges.
"The Lebanese are rightly concerned about the negative impact of the debt on the economy," one economist said.
Saba said that one of the purposes of the association was to correct certain misconceptions about the economy.
The Daily Star