It was finally confirmed by Prime Minister Salim Hoss that “the government’s intention in the next phase is to develop and organize the Ministry of Emigrants’ working mechanism in a way that goes along with the comprehensive plan of administrative reform taking place in official departments.” He stressed “the great importance attached by the government on the role of immigrants and their support to the political, economic and developmental issues of Lebanon”.
President Hoss continued in his assertion of the profound realization of the ministry’s situation, which he takes care of its businesses, and its need to be activated at all levels, in the light of its experience in the past years. However, its reality is the cause of many big questions, both timely and decisive, and these questions are laid in the hands of the government. “
What is the desired role of the Ministry of Emigrants? Did the government seriously evaluate the ministry’s situation and the previous expenditures and emigrant feasibility of the process of spending? How does the Government intend on strengthening the relations between the expatriates themselves who suffer from divisions in several countries, that often go out to the public and to the pages of newspapers, fuelled by the presence of more than one committee all claiming to represent the immigrants overseas, noting that observers detect that the ministry “sometimes takes the side of a party in these divisions instead of being neutral? “. What is the fate of the ministry under a semi-official talk about the possibility of its integration into the Ministry of Foreign Affairs? When will the case of the emigration supplements be finalized?
The most important question remains about the “philosophy” envisaged for the Ministry’s budget this year, in a time when some parties have reservations on very similar terms and expenses from last year, and raise question marks if compared to the results, which in turn raises questions of another kind.
No emigration policy
The ministry is still young – only six years of age – succeeded by three ministers until the end of last year, and witnessed chronic political interactions, which sometimes took a … … The first thing that observers record from the reservations is that “no emigration policy is so far clear … the ministry did not set any serious national program which addresses the issues of immigration, starting from an integrated plan …. the emigrant’s reality and its needs into consideration.”
The people who are directly related to this issue acknowledge this reality. According to the general director of the Ministry Haytham Jum’a to “al-Nahar”, no emigration policy has been placed on the state level, and there is no …. that there is one. I hope that it would be actually accomplished, noting that we have placed our visions about this ….
In the absence of an official unified vision regarding an efficient emigration policy, the ministry went through several stations in the past years that were in their majority seasonal ones imposed by external events (security problems in the countries of residence), and many conferences and internal symposiums, that were noted by observers “to have been dominated by theoretical talks. “
The activities are numerous, and Jum’a describes the vitality of the ministry saying, “not one month went by without any emigration activity for the Ministry.” On the other hand, observers note that this vitality is “a fruitless movement, which did not generate any follow-up mechanism or effective and serious results.”
In the first reading of the formal general emigrational season, it is clear that there are huge numbers which were spent on a variety of activities, which observers say “did not serve the immigrants in their lands of immigration, and did result in specific profit to the motherland.” And they base their position on the words of the former Minister of Emigrants MP Talal Arslan in the conference of the emigrant journalists organized by the ministry last year, that there is no emigration policy in Lebanon, noting that he had been received in the countries of immigration during his tours as a Durzi rather than a minister of emigrants.
Observers see… “This clear situation calls for … President Al-Hoss, who is also the Minister of Emigrants, to make a bold statement… to try the ministry before approving any program …, some fear the possibility that this could fold …. waste or do not serve the expected goals … “.
Numbers and millions
…. Observers stress on MP Arslan’s words ….., especially if coupled with the size of large amounts of money disbursed by the ministry last year, and the “causes” that they have been spent on ….”.
How much did the ministry spend on its activities last year? Jum’a estimates that it likely did not exceed one billion Lebanese pounds … And the “cost was not significant,” noting that “the Ministry’s budget last year amounted to approximately 5 billion pounds, of which two billion were returned to the Treasury, because we did not need them, and spent nearly 3 billion for salaries, rents, studies and other expenses, including one billion on activities,”.
Upon checking the financial data provided, it is clear for the “Al Nahar” newspaper that the Ministry incurred expenses as follows:
– Some 550 million pounds to delegations and internal conferences (seminars and conferences Jum’a talked about above).
– Some 150 million pounds spent by the ministry on foreign delegations and conferences.
– Some 600 million pounds for transportation allowances to move abroad (travel and trips). Sources stop at the “conclusion that Arslan came out with at the end of his tour of the countries of immigration and acknowledged in front of the immigrant journalists in Beirut.”
– Clause of festivals and representation expenses: approximately 100 million pounds.
– Clause of publications: approximately 100 million pounds. Insiders point out that “publications only included the books of the proceedings of the symposia, and a magazine that needs a lot of emigrants’ data for it to even become a real emigrational magazine.”
Reservations and the Usefulness of some activities
If there were any reservations and questions, “they were related to the use of all of these activities compared to the large amounts of money that the ministry spent on them,” as confirmed by observers. However Jum’a does not agree at all with the critics, asserting that “the usefulness of these activities was great,” noting that “representatives of the emigrational institutions and associations who participated in the activities of the ministry were able, not just to visit Lebanon, but also transfer a positive image of it. They also contributed in the stimulating of the investment movement there(…) As for the young people participating in the camp, money was not only spent on them, but they also spent money. And next time, they will come with their parents…
If only you knew the number of applications we received this year from those interested in participating in the camp.
In terms of the recommendations of the seminars and conferences, there are points we started implementing, including the creation of a general Secretariat that will remain in contact with all its member journalists, and the creation of the Lebanese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, which are based in Canada.
It is true that the conference of emigrant associations and clubs was exploratory last year, but we specialized it with a long agenda this year … Also, we heard some rumours about the ministry’s shortcomings in assisting the Lebanese in Sierra Leone by renting an airplane to them. It is not I who decides to rent a plane. This is the policy of the State “.
He then replies to the sceptics by asking: were there any emigration activities before the establishment of the ministry? One starts with organizing activities that are to be useful later. He says firmly: spending in the ministry does not occur at random or temperamentally, but first we have to send the request to the Audit Bureau, which decides whether to approve or reject it. There is nothing here out of the ordinary (…) I am very comfortable to this issue. “
If the Ministry is “trying to connect Lebanon with the Lebanon of the Emigrants and build a bridge of confidence between them (…)then its activities will achieve this end,” according to Jum’a, and there are many remarks on its performance outside Lebanon that are recorded by observers. “Sometimes it intervenes as a side to the divisions among immigrants, instead of being neutral”, alerting to the dangers of the absence of the government’s national role which causes divisions that fuel the emigrant divisions and activate the committees that have sectarian or factional interests at the expense of unity or constructive work. “
They stress “the need for the government to start a line of serious, thoughtful and informed remedies to the situation, rather than distract itself by organizing conferences and “folk” seminars that its officials are well aware to be ineffective.”
To all this, Jum’a responds briefly: “When there is a unified emigration policy by the state, it becomes easier for the ministry to address the divisions and problems between the emigrants overseas (…) we are trying to build a bridge of trust between the state and the citizen with full transparency.”
Observers exclude the possibility that the “efforts” of the ministry will get out of the frame of just attempts … unless the attempts are reinforced by a clear and decent unified emigration policy. And as attention turns to the ministerial committee charged with studying the integration of ministries and the results of their work, the ministry shall continue its operation this year, focusing on a budget that should see the light soon … and the observers wish to achieve through it “qualitative and serious leaps, moving away from solutions that did not live up to their expectations last year.”