Lebanon was given a new government on Friday after 13 months of waiting marked by interminable political negotiations that worsened an unprecedented economic crisis that has sank millions of Lebanese into poverty.
President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister designate Najib Mikati “signed the decree to form the new government in the presence of the head of Parliament, Nabih Berri”, the presidency said on his Twitter account.
The new team features apolitical personalities, some of whom enjoy good reputations, such as Firas Abiad, director of the Rafic Hariri government hospital, spearheading the fight against the coronavirus.
The government of 24 ministers is expected to hold its first meeting at 11:00 a.m. (08:00 GMT) on Monday, Cabinet Secretary General Mahmoud Makiyye said.
Worst crisis since 1850
The country had no new government since the resignation of Hassan Diab’s cabinet, a few days after the devastating explosion at the port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, which left more than 200 dead and devastated entire districts of the capital.
Since then, the unprecedented economic crisis that the country has been going through since the summer of 2019 has continued to worsen, the World Bank calling it one of the worst in the world since 1850.
With rampant inflation and massive layoffs, 78% of the Lebanese population now live below the poverty line, the hall l’ON.
Free fall of the local currency, unprecedented banking restrictions, gradual lifting of subsidies, shortages of fuels and of medications, the country has also been plunged into darkness for several months, power cuts peaking up to more than 10 p.m. daily.
The district generators, who generally take over, also ration homes, businesses and institutions, for lack of sufficient fuel oil, which has become expensive and scarce in a country short of foreign currencies and in the midst of the lifting of subsidies on several basic products.
Many challenges await the next government, in particular the conclusion of an agreement with the International Monetary Fundl, with which talks have been interrupted since July 2020. For the international community, this is an essential step in getting Lebanon out of the crisis and unblocking other substantial aid.
For more than a year, the international community has made its aid conditional on the formation of a government capable of fighting corruption and carrying out essential reforms. It has contented itself since the explosion to provide a emergency humanitarian aid, without going through official institutions.
At the end of July, Michel Aoun had charged Najib Mikati, former Prime Minister and richest man in the country, to form a new government after the failure of its two predecessors. Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, had thrown in the towel in mid-July after nine months of difficult negotiations.
After his resignation, he accused Iran, Hezbollah’s main supporter, of “hindering” the birth of a reforming government. Before him, Ambassador Moustafa Adib had also returned his apron.
Despite threats of sanctions from the European Union (EU), warnings and accusations of “organized obstruction” in recent months, Lebanese political leaders have continued their usual bargaining.