Lebanese President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati have signed a decree on the formation of the new government, the presidency announced on Friday, ending 13-month deadlock that has worsened the country’s economic situation.
“The situation is very difficult. But it’s not impossible if we united as Lebanese. We have to put our hands together,” Mikati told the press on Friday, adding, “We are all going to work together, united with hope and determination.”
The new prime minister made the remarks at a press conference at the presidential Baabda Palace following a meeting with Aoun to sign the government formation decree with Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri also present. He arrived to the presidential palace waving a paper to the press with what was the finalized list of ministers, before meeting the president.
Lebanon had been without a government for over a year as it descended further into economic meltdown.
Like the country’s previous government, the lineup consists of newcomers, including Finance Minister Yousef Khalil, a senior Central Bank official, and Health Minister Firas Abiad of the government-run Rafic Hariri University Hospital, who came to prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mikati vowed to help Lebanon through “exceptional circumstances”, as its economy continues to crumble, expressing his concern about the state of education, the country’s brain drain, and medicine shortages.
Lebanon’s economy continues to spiral. The Lebanese pound has lost 90 percent of its value in less than two years, while gasoline, diesel fuel, and medicine shortages plagued the country. The United Nations recently estimated that almost three-quarters of the population in Lebanon live in poverty.
The international community has repeatedly urged Lebanon to reform its wasteful and ineffective economic sectors, restart negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, and hold general elections scheduled for May 2022.
With the government now formed, Parliament will soon convene to issue a vote of confidence for the Mikati government.
Mikati was appointed almost two months ago on July 26, soon after previous Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri’s resignation.
Since then, he, Aoun, and other political leaders engaged in political horse trading to agree on the sectarian and political allocation of ministerial appointments as per the country’s fragile sectarian power-sharing system.
Mikati is currently a parliamentarian representing the northern city of Tripoli, and heads a three-member bloc. He has previously had two stints as Lebanon’s prime minister, once in a caretaker capacity in 2005, and more recently from June 2011 until February 2014. He is also multi-billionaire businessman, and one of the wealthiest men in Lebanon.
Lebanon has not had a full-fledged government in 13 months, after caretaker Prime Minister Hasan Diab’s government resigned in August 2020 in the wake of the Beirut Port explosion.
Since then, two government formation attempts have failed, once by diplomat and Ambassador to Germany Mustafa Adib, the other by former PM Hariri. The political paralysis continued to persist, despite attempts from the Macron government in France to break the deadlock, and the European Union dangling sanctions threats at obstructing officials.