• Mikati cuts short the speech because the hours of electricity are scarce
  • Parliament gives vote of confidence amid collapse
  • Tough road to walk as Mikati aims to revive IMF talks

BEIRUT, Sept. 20 (Reuters) – Lebanon’s new government on Monday won a vote of confidence in favor of a political program to address a devastating economic crisis, despite the parliamentary session being delayed following the extinction of fires in due to power outages.

The program drawn up by the government of Prime Minister Najib Mikati promises to relaunch talks with the International Monetary Fund and initiate the reforms donors want to see before releasing much-needed foreign aid.

When the session finally began, Speaker of Parliament Nabih Berri urged Mikati to keep it brief due to the power cuts, which are part of a nationwide energy crisis that has crippled normal life as supplies of hard currencies have run out.

“From the heart of the suffering of Beirut (…) our cabinet was born to light a candle in this desperate darkness,” Mikati said while reading the program. Read more

“Don’t bother and read it aloud, let’s buy time because of the electricity problem,” Berri, leader of the Shiite Amal movement, told the Sunni prime minister.

However, the session lasted more than seven hours.

Lebanon is in a deep depression, with fuel shortages resulting in few or no hours of state-produced electricity and leaving people largely dependent on private generators.

The cabinet won the vote with a majority of 85 out of 15.

Mikati, a billionaire tycoon, faces a difficult path to a solid economic base. Read more

“We will start with the IMF, it is not a choice, it is something that we have to go through,” he said in a speech, before the vote.

To unlock aid and turn the economy around, his government must succeed where many forerunners have failed to implement politically difficult reforms, including measures to tackle corruption and waste.

While some doubt Mikati can do much, with parliamentary elections slated for next spring and followed by a change of government, others believe the severity of the crisis could lead to some reforms.

Mikati’s government was finally accepted after a year of political conflict over cabinet seats which deepened the crisis.

Its draft political program said it would renew and expand a financial recovery plan drawn up by the previous government, which projected a financial system deficit of some $ 90 billion – a figure approved by the IMF.

The plan was rejected by the Lebanese political elite and the banking system, helping to kill IMF talks last year.

The Lebanese financial system collapsed at the end of 2019. The root cause was decades of rampant public spending and the unsustainable way it was financed.

The wealthy Gulf states, which had traditionally funneled funds to Lebanon, have been reluctant to come to its aid for years, alarmed by the influence of the Iranian-backed Shiite Hezbollah group.

Mikati has pledged to bring Lebanon back into the Arab fold, but it faces a delicate balance, as Hezbollah succeeded last week in bringing in a first shipment of Iranian fuel oil to alleviate power shortages.

Mikati, whose government includes ministers backed by Hezbollah, said on Friday that Iranian fuel was a violation of his country’s sovereignty. Read more

Reporting by Maha El Dahan and Laila Bassam; Writing by Maha El Dahan and Tom Perry; Editing by Gareth Jones, Timothy Heritage, Hugh Lawson and Alexander Smith

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

About The Author

Related Posts