Lebanese PM gives roadmap for government as cabinet meets

Lebanon PM gives roadmap for new government after first cabinet meeting
3 min read
13 September, 2021
Mikati's government announced a list of ambitious goals in its plan to curtail the tailspin of Lebanon's economy.
Mikati said that though he does not want to, he would have no choice but to lift subsidies [Getty]

Lebanon’s newly formed government laid out a roadmap on Monday for its policy priorities over the coming months, aimed at tackling the country's devastating economic crisis.

Minister of Information George Kordahi rattled off an ambitious list of goals for the new government, including "implementing the electricity plan" and negotiations with the IMF to access badly-needed international aid.

Kordahi's statement was the first indication of the policies the newly formed government would pursue to help stymie the hemorrhaging of Lebanon's economy.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s list of 24 cabinet officials was approved on Friday, allowing him to form a government and end 13 months of gridlock and political squabbling between Lebanon's major political factions.

The Mikati government will inherit a country mired in crisis. Over 80 percent of the population is experiencing "multidimensional poverty", meaning they lack access to one essential good or service such as healthcare and education.

The economy is also in freefall, its collapse dubbed one of the top global economic crises since the mid-19th century by the World Bank.

The national currency has lost over 90 percent of its value since the beginning of the financial crisis in autumn 2019, and prices of basic goods have exploded as the country experiences hyperinflation.

President Michel Aoun has emphasised the need to implement a "ration card" scheme, which will provide 500,000 families with an average of $93 per family as a form of social support.

Although the scheme was formally adopted last Thursday, neither its funding nor distribution mechanism have yet been specified, although officials have said either the World Bank or the IMF may contribute to the programme.

The social support scheme is sorely needed, as Lebanon's caretaker government has steadily eroded the systems of subsidies which were constraining price growth.

The economy ministry has raised bread prices seven times this year. Fuel prices are now set at 66 percent of their non-subsidised levels, while medicine was set at 88 percent of non-subsidised levels just last week.

In his inaugural speech as prime minister on Friday, Mikati said that although he does not want to lift subsidies he will have to as "there is no money".

Another chief task of the new government will be to restart negotiations with the IMF to get international aid flowing to the country again. The international community has stated its willingness to assist Lebanon with financial aid, but only after a new government was formed and reforms were made to the political system.

Now that a government is in place, Lebanon will have a chance of receiving this financial aid, if the government is willing pass the reforms the international community has called for.