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New Lebanon government aiming to ‘send positive signals abroad’

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati announcing the formation of a new Lebanese government after a meeting with the President at the presidential palace in Baabda. (AFP)
Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati announcing the formation of a new Lebanese government after a meeting with the President at the presidential palace in Baabda. (AFP)
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12 Sep 2021 12:09:22 GMT9
12 Sep 2021 12:09:22 GMT9
  • It is Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s third government and the fourth under President Michel Aoun
  • As part of the formation agreement, the government will remain in power for eight months until elections next year

Najia Housari

BEIRUT: The newly formed Lebanese government has received a cautious welcome at home and abroad as it seeks to stay on course with demands set by major countries and institutions, including France and the International Monetary Fund.

It is Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s third government and the fourth under President Michel Aoun. The group is scheduled to hold its first session on Monday to draw up a ministerial statement. Through this, the government will define its priorities. The new government will then head to the Lebanese Parliament for a vote of confidence.

As part of the formation agreement, the government will remain in power for eight months until elections next year in May. Analysts say that it is a short period of time for a rescue government to operate in, but sufficient for the Cabinet to take quick and effective measures.

A source from the banking sector told Arab News: “This government sent positive signals both locally and internationally. However, it is required to address certain priorities that increase the confidence of depositors, bankers, institutions and donors. Local confidence is important and requires drawing up a development and economic reform program.”

Describing the new government, Aoun said: “It is the best that can be reached, and it is capable of action to get us out of these dark times.”

However, some political observers believe that the new government “does not go in line with international initiatives and lacks all the elements of strength that these initiatives provided.”

Political analyst Hanna Saleh told Arab News: “The only new thing this government has brought to the table is replacing bankers with judges as ministers.”

The new government is the product of compromise and quotas between powerful Lebanese political factions. It is a ruling group of political technocrats, not independent technocrats, a central demand of the French initiative to rescue Lebanon from crisis.

Former prime minister-designate Saad Hariri previously proposed the inclusion of several independent figures in any new government, but they have not been included in Mikati’s group.

MP Bilal Abdullah, a member of the Democratic Gathering parliamentary bloc, told Arab News: “Any government is better than no government. Mikati’s government is a government of technocrats, meaning that it has quotas, and without that, it would not have been formed. In addition, it was only formed after it was accepted from abroad.”

He added: “This government is now required to stop the collapse. It cannot perform miracles, but it could at least implement rescue and reform measures. It needs to negotiate with international institutions, the foremost being the IMF. Without fresh money, there is no rescue, and the most important thing is to restore Lebanon’s ties with its Arab surroundings and the international community, and hold parliamentary elections.”

Economic journalist Danielle Daher said: “The government must address the urgent crisis, namely securing fuel to meet the people’s need after the lifting of subsidies, which Mikati paved the way for in his speech. Most importantly, the Lebanese pound’s exchange rate to the dollar needs to be unified; it is unreasonable to have six different rates in Lebanon. This is one of the IMF requirements.”

Daher added: “The exchange rate on the black market will then automatically drop. The government is required to send a positive signal abroad, as evidence of its seriousness in implementing the required reforms, especially the issue of capital control, which is also a requirement of the IMF.”

Najat Rushdie, the UN resident coordinator for humanitarian affairs in Lebanon, said: “We count on the new ministers’ commitment to face the challenges and do what is necessary.

“The international community’s endeavor is to save the people through purely humanitarian aid, because essential matters are solved by politics. Resolving the crisis requires undertaking structural reforms,” Rushdie added.

Some Lebanese media outlets believed that the government would not have been formed had it not been for “the scenes of chaos at Kabul airport, which made the US administration fear a similar scenario in a capital that is also slipping into chaos.”

The EU welcomed the formation of the government, labeling it “the key to addressing the economic, financial and social crises.”

The Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for “giving the new government the opportunity to achieve its goals and get Lebanon out of its crisis, in accordance with its constitutional powers.”

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