Lebanese express worries and mixed emotions over new government | Business and Economy News

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Beirut, Lebanon – With the new cabinet of Prime Minister Najib Mikati having won a parliamentary vote of confidence, many Lebanese are tentatively hoping that the crisis that has lasted for years in their country may finally have reached a turning point.

At the same time, there are concerns that this new cabinet – filled with many familiar faces – represents just another continuation of a status quo that more and more Lebanese wish to see ended.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, people expressed their feelings about Mikati’s new government and its plans to address their country’s many woes after 13 months of political stalemate.

“We hope it will be good for the country because people are tired,” said Jihad Jaber, owner of a clothing store in Hamra, Beirut.

“We see that it looks like they are ready to work, unlike the last cabinet. We will have to wait and see. As citizens, we ask them to resolve these crises, from fuel scarcity to poor quality of life, and let the dollar rate drop. We want to live well.

A spiraling financial collapse

According to recent figures released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), nearly 75 percent of the Lebanese population currently lives in poverty. Even basic amenities like electricity and water are scarce, as residents queue for hours outside gas stations in hopes of buying fuel for their cars and generators.

This predicament was precipitated by a spiraling financial collapse where most Lebanese saw their dollar bank accounts frozen to preserve their stocks of US dollars.

Food and service prices have risen dramatically across the board and – as the formation of a new government sparked a kind of rally in the heavily depreciated Lebanese pound – those who have already left the country, hoping for better prospects. abroad, seem reluctant to surrender.

“I will be the first to return to the country if I feel the new government is going to work for the good of the citizens,” said Nada El Daouk, an educational entrepreneur currently living between Turkey and Qatar. “[They] should work to free our money and our deposits in banks.

“The Lebanese people need to feel that they are living in a country that provides them with their basic needs and human rights,” she added. “The new line of cabinets doesn’t look very professional. i don’t see that [they have] the references to overcome the current political and economic situation.

The “brain drain” caused by the massive exodus of Lebanese professionals and specialists is keenly felt in all sectors, but more particularly in the medical field.

Hundreds of doctors and other medical experts have already left the country, exacerbating a rapidly expanding healthcare crisis caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic and the rising cost of imported goods such as medicines and equipment .

“Facilitate personal gains”

Lebanese students who previously saw their future in Lebanon are increasingly being encouraged to leave by their families due to the deteriorating situation. Rising tuition fees and the collapsing labor market have left Lebanese youth with little to look forward to if they stay, stirring resentment in the aging and seemingly stagnant ruling class.

“In this government we have the governor of the Bank of Lebanon and so many people who have held positions in the past that are not on the side of the people,” said Amar Sleiman, medical student at Balamand University. . “[They] will simply facilitate the personal gains of big depositors, politicians and the rich, to the detriment of everyone else.

“When it comes to young people, I honestly think nobody cares about them right now,” she continued. “The only plan people have for young people is to get them to travel to get money for their families. Personally, I think that this government, if it has to make a difference, it will be negative for our lives because of its form and the people who are there.

Mikati, a telecommunications billionaire and one of Lebanon’s richest businessmen, has served as prime minister twice and has also been investigated for corruption. This has led some to see him as an embodiment of the apparent cronyism that plagues Lebanese politics.

Despite demands from the international community for Lebanon to form a technocratic government of experts, the new cabinet is still balanced along sectarian lines, with 12 Christians and 12 Muslims, and includes several new ministers with little experience to suggest that ‘They will be successful in their new roles, like George Qordahi, a famous television personality appointed Minister of Information, and Abbas al-Hajj Hassan, a former journalist who will now be Minister of Agriculture.

The appointment of only one female cabinet member – Minister of Administrative Development Najla Riachi – was also widely condemned.

Despite this, some of the new appointments were welcomed. Health Minister Firas Abiad, for example, is a gastrointestinal surgeon and chairman of the board of the state-run Rafik Hariri Teaching Hospital, which rose to prominence by becoming the public face. of the Lebanese response to COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Environment Minister Nasser Yassin is the current director of the American University of Beirut Crisis Observatory.

It remains to be seen whether the new cabinet will keep its promise to save Lebanon. Mikati has previously said he would seek to resume negotiations with the IMF after his government is formed, in the hope of easing Lebanon’s financial woes. He also promised to hold next year’s elections on time.

“I have positive [feelings]Said sports teacher Chadi Mattar, from Naameh. “It will be good for the country if they can be responsible. Maybe this can be a change. I’m not 100 percent [convinced], but maybe 60 percent. It’s better than having nothing.

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