Sustainable Development

Finance Minister while honoring children of tobacco farmers: Now is the right time to come up with solutions

13 December 2018
The Association of Tobacco Farmers in South Lebanon honored the sons and daughters of tobacco farmers who had passed the high school official exams for the academic year 2017-2018 in Sidon and Tyr during a ceremony held at the Bassel Al-Assad Cultural Center in Tyr under the auspices of caretaker Minister of Finance Ali Hassan Khalil.

The ceremony was attended by Minister Khalil in person, the Director General of La Regie Libanaise de Tabacs et Tombacs (Regie) Engineer Nassif Seklaoui, the head of the Confederation of Unions of Tobacco and Tambac Workers in Lebanon Hassan Faqih, Qaemmaqam Tyr Mohammad Jaffal, Sheikh Rabih Kobeisy representing the Mufti of Tyr and Jabal Amel, Sheikh Hassan Abdallah, Sheikh Issam Kassab representing the Mufti of Tyr and its regions Sheikh Madra Habbal, Archbishop Brechara Kattoura Representing Bishop Michael Abras, Archbishop Niclas Bassil representing Bishop Elias Kfoury, Monseigneur Charbel Abdallah representing Bishop Shekrallah Nabil El-Hajj, the representative of Amal Movement in Jabal Amel, Ali Ismail top of a delegation from the movement, the Head of the Municipal Union of Tyr, Hassan Dabbouq, the head of the educational region in South Lebanon Bassem Abbas, and a number of social figures and tobacco farmers.


After the national anthem, Hawra’a Khalil presented the ceremony which commenced by the speech of Mr. Hassan Faqih who mentioned that various towns and villages in the South and elsewhere in the North, Beqaa and Jabal had been marginalized and governments had been disregarding the importance of development and suitable infrastructure for agriculture, industrial work, tourism, as well as health and educational services in order to prevent internal displacement. He also mentioned that this led to poverty belts, crowded cities with dense housing, and a countryside without the people; noting that the Israeli aggression in South Lebanon led to more poverty, a matter that prompted House Speaker Nabih Berri to launch a huge agricultural campaign aimed at enabling the citizens so they may sustain socially and economically.

In this regard, Faqih said “the Union did not differentiate between a region and the other because all farmers are our people,” adding that agriculture has always been a source of living and income and calling on the state to support it and support farmers in order to protect it by all possible means.

“We are about to form a new government upon which we call to include tobacco farmers, and fishermen in the National Social Security Fund and to increase the selling prices in a manner that goes along with the rising cost of living and the growing cost of agriculture. We also call on the government to offer agricultural loans without interest and to adopt a comprehensive national agricultural plan that restores the position of this important economic sector and brings back the people to their land.”

For his part, Engineer Seklaoui noted that this noble tradition has become a yearly event aimed at translating Regie’s perseverance to achieve sustainability especially with tobacco farmers, adding that this year they came back to the South, to Sidon and Tyr specifically after passing this initiative allover Lebanon in the North, Beqaa, Nabatieh, Bint Jbeil, and Marjaayoun, while stressing that it had included so far hundreds of students with 103 new students added today and hoping for offering grants next year for the students of Bint Jbeil.

“Regie is not an educational institution; however, when we launched the sustainable development and social services program, education was our top priority, and motivating the children of farmers to continue their education was also a priority and this contribution aims at supporting the farmers and their children and despite its limitedness it holds different moral, social and educational aspects and is a weapon against poverty and marginalization; it is a pillar that strengthens the culture of resistance and this is what Speaker Berri wanted when he started addressing the concerns of the farmers.”

Engineer Seklaoui added that Lebanon needs capabilities to continue and does not need people who question the developmental initiatives and aim to abolish them, emphasizing that Regie wanted to start a practical initiative to support the farmers and compensate for their losses that resulted from the climate change.

To conclude his speech, Eng. Seklaoui said: “We will not allow the transformation of tobacco planting into a business controlled by non-farmers; we will not allow the exploitation of our farmers.”
Ali Hassan Khalil

For his part, Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said: “We stand today in Tyr to meet the people of the land who have been carrying this cause and protecting it; making their presence the most important aspect of the battle with the Israeli enemy. They were the pioneers during the tough times, they are the farmers and on top of their list tobacco farmers that Speaker Berri considered their cause the central cause at the developmental level; and consequently leading us to support them as they are the guardians of the land and the real protectors of its sovereignty and independence.”

He added: “Another time, I stand before this pioneer experience of Regie that managed to transform the planting nurseries to success headlines and achievements by handling this file that was transformed into an equal relation and responsibility between the farmer and the state and this by itself is an achievement for the work of institutions and their role in development.”

Minister Khalil also said: “Talking about agriculture, we move to the most important challenge that we face today at the national level which is the economic form we seek for our country in the future as we are now the consuming country rather than being the producing country.”

“This challenge will be discussed with the new government as we cannot remain in a vicious circle while taking into consideration our economic and social reality. The country cannot remain dependent on consumption methods only at the expense of searching for reservoirs that encourage production sectors and this needs a plan for the future."

On the political situation, he said: “We have to admit that we were not up to the expectations and aspirations of the people in terms of forming the government after the parliamentary elections.”
“The delays came under different titles, but our economic and financial situation in the absence of executive decisions makes the challenges and the risks even worse.”

He also stated that now is the right time to find solutions adding that those who feel capable should stand up and bear the responsibility.

In the same regard, Minister Khalil praised the movement started by the Lebanese President, pointing out that the trust of the people requires a successful result after this movement as we stand today before limited choices and their impacts are negative on our situation and stability.

“Any referendum done among the good and simple people plainly indicates that the political forces today lose morally as much as the loss they incur on our institutions as a result of the delay in the formation of the government.”

He also added: “We are aware the government may not make an extraordinary change quickly, but it will put matters on the right track,” pointing out that they are still confident that a government may be formed before the end of this year only if the correct step is taken and stressing that this step will not be considered a loss for those who make it but will eternally remain as a success in their national records.”

In this regard, he called for looking thoroughly into the dangers of this stage and into the changes that the region is witnessing, pointing out that we should not miss the opportunity of preserving our internal stability and launching the work of our executive institutions, namely the cabinet.

On another note, Minister Khalil addressed the heads of municipalities saying: “Allow me to say that municipalities have the right to get their funds from the independent municipal fund, and I had personally vowed to have this matter settled on time last year; however, our financial situation this month does not allow us to settle this amount of money on time.”

“I know a lot of municipalities are counting on these funds and it’s their right, but it is my duty to tell you that the financial situation resulting from the political issues is not facilitating the paying process; however, I promise you that the first payments from the treasury of the state after overcoming this crisis will be for the municipalities, and hopefully by the beginning of the new year.”

Minister Khalil concluded his speech by reiterating his praise to the administration of Regie for the national role it assumes across Lebanon.

It is worth noting that the ceremony was concluded by offering financial awards to the children of the farmers, and an honorary shield to Minister Khalil.

A cocktail banquet was held in honor of the audience.

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