Lebanon has been suffering from several problems since the Beirut Port blast in August 2020. The deadly blast injured more than seven thousand and killed 217 people and led to the removal of the former government. As a result, the country stayed for more than a year in a complete chaotic state due to the absence of a government body. However, this month, Lebanon finally announced the formation of a relatively new government. That led to many questions about who has been running the country for the last year? What is the new government? Is it reliable and trustworthy? Will the new government change the miserable situation that the country is suffering from?
The blast of the Beirut Port was a turning point to the political scene in Lebanon. Since then, the country drowned in an economic crisis as the Lira has been continuously dropping, until it lost 90% of its worth. As a result, food prices inflated by 400%. People badly needed to form a new government; in hope it can get the economy out of the rut. Several attempts to install a new government has failed, after Al-Hariry’s government resignation, leaving the country without a real governing body for an entire year. The fights among the political elite are the real reason for this failure to form a working government. For example, because of these fights, the first government led by Hasan Diab, held no actual power to take action towards tangible results. Diab was a Prime Minister, but with no real power.
Right now, a relatively novel government has been formed under the leadership of Prime Minister Najib Mikati. He is not a new face for the Lebanese people. He is a Lebanese billionaire, from the telecommunications sector, who formerly served as the Prime Minister in 2005 and 2011. Yet, Mikati was charged with corruption practices while he served on top of government, at the time. Also, there is a huge decline in the number of women ministers in Mikati’s government compared to previous governments. Out of 24 ministers, Najla Riachi is the only woman, appointed as the administrative development minister. In comparison, Hassan Diab’s government has six women ministers. Riachi has a rich experience in diplomacy, as she previously served as Lebanon’s Consul in Istanbul, in 2002. Then, she served as the Director of Foreign Ministry, under Minister Gebran Bassil, between 2012-2020.
One of the most important positions in Mikati’s government is the Minister of Finance, occupied by Youssef Al-Khalil. He worked at the Lebanese Central Bank, in several leading positions, for forty years. During his work, he led an operation to bring more US dollars to Lebanon. The operation led to intensifying the financial crisis in Lebanon, rather than solving it. His operation left many civilians with empty bank accounts, unable to withdraw their own money. Another important position in the new government is a famous face in the Arab region; George Kordahi, the host of the famous television Show “Who Wants to be A Millionaire?”. Kordahi has been appointed as the Minister of Information in Mikati’s government. The final piece of puzzle is the new Minister of Health, Firass Abaidh. He was the leading figure responsible for dealing with the outbreak of Covid19 Pandemic, last year. He is highly respected by the Lebanese people for his devotion and work ethics.
Now, Lebanon can benefit from foreign aid to pay its debt of estimated 90 billion dollars. This was impossible before installing a government. On a first action by the new government, Minister of Finance, Al-Khalil, agreed with a United States-based company to change the legal audit of the Central Bank. It is an important move, so other countries in the international community becomes motivated to donate and help with solving Lebanon’s financial crisis.
Moreover, Hezbollah has a role to play in this government. Hezbollah is a powerful political force inside Lebanon, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.
Hezbollah is backing two ministers in the new cabinet. Therefore, the group facilitated the delivery of diesel fuel from Syria to Lebanon to solve the several crises caused by lack of oil for months. The government approved the shipment of fuel from Iraq. However, Hezbollah managed to bring the Iranian fuel from Syria, one day before the arrival of the Iraqi fuel. That means, Hezbollah violated the sanctions applied by the United States on the Syrian government and whoever cooperates with it. Yet, the transfer was a relief to the civilians who are suffering from the shortage of fuel, electricity power cuts, and much more.
It is still too early to know if the new government will change the difficult situation in Lebanon. However, they are clearly trying to shake the deep-rooted problems, that Lebanon has been suffering for years. Finding a solution for the financial deficit, and the decline of the currency will not be an easy task. Mikati said that “he is hoping to take the country to another level” and then he will let the people decide who they want to govern in the next elections in May. That was an encouraging statement which we still do not know if there are any personal interests behind it.
Finally, the Lebanese people, who are still suffering without gasoline to warm and food to eat, are wondering how the members of the new government can fix the country, if they are the same people who brought the country to this situation.