A TIME FOR RENEWAL

Lebanon 2017 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE General Michel Aoun, President of the Republic of Lebanon, on reinvigorating and renewing the national pact, the importance of the economic planning for growth and stability, and building a more inclusive citizenship.

HE General Michel Aoun
BIOGRAPHY
HE General Michel Aoun was born in 1933. He was elected President on October 31, 2016 in the 46th electoral session of the Lebanese parliament, breaking a 29-month deadlock. He is a Maronite Christian and the founder of the Free Patriotic Movement. Aoun was appointed as a Lebanese Army General in 1984. From September 1988 to October 1990, he served as Prime Minister after being appointed by then-departing Lebanese President Amine Gemayel as head of the Lebanese government and interim prime minister. The controversial decision saw the rise of two rival governments contending for power at that time, one by General Aoun and the other by Prime Minister Selim Hoss.

How would you describe the current economic situation of the country?

As far as economic and social stability are concerned, the economic, social, financial, developmental, health, environmental, and educational situations have been subject to consecutive crises due to many external and internal causes. While the external causes are out of our control and we can only limit their repercussions, the internal causes compel us to tackle them with a transformational approach, which begins with an economic reform based on planning and coordination between the ministries and the digitization of various state administrations. We cannot go on without comprehensive, sector-based economic plans. Indeed, without planning, the state cannot stand tall, and a state without a civil society cannot be built. Investing wealth from natural resources in productive projects is at the foundation of a growing liberal economy based on individual entrepreneurship. Partnerships between the private and public sectors, within a targeted and developed financial vision, are also key. Moreover, investing in human resources, particularly in the educational and cultural sectors, contributes to building reliable generations to guarantee the future of the Lebanon we all strive for. In fact, the main wealth of Lebanon lies in the Lebanese diaspora spreading itself throughout the world, those to whom we owe the continuity and dissemination of Lebanon's message, as well as the resident Lebanese who are entitled to live in a stable political environment with a clean natural environment.

How is your administration working towards combating corruption and ending illicit financial deals?

Administrative decentralization, with its combination of flexibility and dynamism in providing people's needs and services while preserving its specificity within the formula of coexistence, must be a main axis, not only in application of the National Accord Document or in harmony with the nature of Lebanon, but also in line with the development of political regimes throughout the world. This socioeconomic reform can only succeed with the consecration of a transparent system by embracing the legal system that helps prevent corruption, by appointing an anti-corruption committee, and by activating control bodies and enabling them to carry out all their duties. The important point is that the Lebanese have faith in each other and in their state—a state that should be their protector and provider of their rights and needs, and in their president of the republic, the guarantor of safety and peace. These are the guiding principles of the presidency, during which I truly hope to achieve a paradigm shift in establishing a real national partnership at various levels of the state and constitutional authorities. In launching an economic reinvigoration to reverse the downward track, and in watching over the soundness of the judiciary, we will pave the way for the rise of a sounder citizenship in which every component of the nation feels reassured about their present, their future, and the fate of Lebanon.

What message would you send to those discouraged by years of instability and turmoil in the country and the region?

It is true that we were late in fulfilling what we dreamt of and struggled for, and for which many of our dear fellows were displaced in the four corners of the globe and many of our loved ones fell as martyrs, wounded, prisoners, and missing. Nevertheless, I am confident that all the Lebanese people, despite their awareness that the road is hard and long, have the determination, will, and courage to achieve together that for which we vowed our lives: a strong and unified Lebanon for all its citizens; a Lebanon of freedom and dignity; a Lebanon of sovereignty and independence; a Lebanon of stability and prosperity; Lebanon, the pact; and Lebanon, the message.