AUB president blasts 'worst govt in Lebanese history' for disregarding education

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The president of the American University of Beirut Friday called the Lebanese government one of the worst in the country’s history due to its disregard for the education sector.

Criticizing the current and previous governments for allowing Lebanon to become entangled in an unprecedented financial and economic crisis, Fadlo Khuri said that no previous government took for granted Lebanon’s higher education the way Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government is.

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“Now I’m going to be blunt here: this is the worst government in Lebanese history with regard to their understanding of and their care of higher education,” Khuri said in a webinar with DC-based think tank, Middle East Institute.

Khuri spoke of the need to continue supporting AUB and other Lebanese universities to produce “educated, capable and real technocrats,” adding that he does not think the current government is technocratic.

Diab, appointed by Hezbollah and its allies, promised to head a technocratic government made up of independent experts.

However, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s Future Movement, the Lebanese Forces, Kataeb Party and Progressive Socialist Party are not represented in Diab’s government.

The AUB president said that more than 60 percent of all citable research on Lebanon comes from AUB. “No other … university carries that much of its country’s scientific output,” he said, lamenting the country’s current state of higher education.

“This government does not care about higher education, and if they don’t care about higher education, they don’t care about education [and] they don’t care about the country,” Khuri said.

AUB is currently owed more than $150 million from the government for medical bills. Khuri urged the government to “just talk to us” and provide a schedule of how this would be repaid.

The university, like many other institutions in Lebanon, is facing a difficult financial situation. AUB was forced to lay off around 25 percent of its employees, Khuri previously said.

Despite this, the Lebanese prime minister is suing the university and demanding close to $1 million in severance pay and retirement funds. Diab is also demanding this money be paid in US dollars to a bank outside of Lebanon.

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With the current crisis in Lebanon and a shortage of US dollars in the market, banks do not allow depositors to withdraw dollars.
Speaking of the political elite in Lebanon, “including the current government are not patriots,” Khuri said.

“To bring confidence [to Lebanon], you’ve gotta be competent. I have not seen one shred of competence so far in six months,” the AUB president said in an apparent reference to Diab’s government that has been in office since the beginning of the year.

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