Lebanon PM Najib Mikati Calls for 'Sacrifice' as Government Meets for First Time

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Lebanon PM Najib Mikati Calls for 'Sacrifice' as Government Meets for First Time

All Lebanese will have to make sacrifices, Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on Monday as Lebanon's new government met for the first time to discuss steps to save the country from economic collapse.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati formed a government on Friday, ending 13 months of caretaker governance during which political leaders fought over ministerial shares in the Cabinet.

“The country requires exceptional measures,” Mikati said from the presidential palace in Baabda, a Beirut suburb.

“We all have to sacrifice.”

Mikati said the government would “deal with the issue of fuel and medicine to stop the humiliation of people".

Lebanon has been suffering from severe shortages of imported goods such as petrol and medicines, which are subsidised by the government. The Central Bank’s foreign currency reserves have dwindled since the crisis hit in late 2019, severely restricting imports of subsidised products.

People have had to queue for hours at petrol stations to fill their tanks, with many calling them "lines of humiliation".

Political parties who are widely blamed for the present crisis named most of the 24 ministers in government. The Cabinet must now restart negotiations with international lenders to save Lebanon from a severe economic crisis that pushed nearly 80 per cent of the population below the poverty line according to UN data.

The Cabinet is also expected to lift subsidies, which Mikati has said the country can no longer afford, and prepare for a parliamentary election due in eight months.

President Michel Aoun, an ally of the Iran-backed Hezbollah movement which holds sway over Lebanese politics, headed the Cabinet meeting. Aoun said he hoped the new government would restart negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Talks on an assistance package broke down last year after disagreements between the government, parliament and the central bank.

Source: The National