Lebanese authorities announce government formation one year after the last one resigned
The new Lebanese government is expected to hold its first official meeting on 13 September
By News Desk - September 10 2021

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati. (Photo credit: AP/Bilal Hussein)

Lebanese caretaker officials announced on 10 September the formation of a new government after one year of uncertainty during which two PM-designates were forced to recuse themselves and Lebanon plunged deeper into crisis.

Lebanon’s 77th government came together after 46 days of deliberations and will be led by billionaire Najib Mikati, marking the third time he will lead the Lebanese government as prime minister.

The country has been without a proper government since last year’s catastrophic explosion at the Port of Beirut, which destroyed large swathes of the capital, left at least 210 people dead, and prompted the resignations of then-PM Hassan Diab and his cabinet.

Working alongside Mikati as Deputy Prime Minister will be Saadeh Al Shami from the Syrian Social Nationalist Party (SSNP). Al Shami worked at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for around two decades and also served for five years as the chairman of Lebanon’s Capital Markets Authority.

Reportedly selected by former PM Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s new Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib is a former World Bank economist and ambassador to Washington (1983-1990).

As for one of the most crucial posts for the crisis-hit country, the Ministry of Finance’s top job will go to Youssef Khalil, a senior Central Bank official and close aide to the widely-loathed governor Riad Salameh.

Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah will also be represented in this new government, with the Public Works and Transport, Agriculture and Labor ministries going to officials affiliated with the movement.

This new government now has the unenviable task of pulling the Levantine nation out of crisis, including implementing critical reforms and a financial audit of the Central Bank, whose governor has been mired in corruption scandals within the nation and abroad.

The new Cabinet is also expected to oversee general elections scheduled for next year.

“The situation in the country is difficult,” Mikati said in a speech after signing the decree for the government’s formation. “I hope I can stop the collapse and bring prosperity back to the country.”

Mikati also warned that the Central Bank no longer has enough reserves to maintain subsidies, calling on the Lebanese to “tighten their belts” in a country where three quarters of the population have dropped below the poverty line since the start of the 2019 financial crisis.

According to senior officials, the breakthrough in negotiations followed a push by the French and US governments to get Lebanon’s fractious political leaders to form a cabinet.

It also comes as various shipments of Iranian oil are headed toward the fuel-deprived country, thanks to an agreement between Hezbollah and Tehran to ease an energy crisis in which Lebanese citizens get an average of two hours of electricity per day.

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