Lebanon’s minister warns over slow formation of government

Lebanon's Caretaker Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil. (REUTERS)
Updated 20 June 2018
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Lebanon’s minister warns over slow formation of government

  • Lebanon is the world’s third-most indebted nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent
  • Following May’s election, Lebanon is being run by a caretaker government

BEIRUT: Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil said on Tuesday that Lebanon was not forming a new government fast enough and he had not seen serious headway made on the matter.
Political leaders and foreign donors have said Lebanon, which held a parliamentary election on May 6, needs to establish a government quickly to maintain confidence in the country and get to work on reforms to help an ailing economy.
“It is important for political forces to be aware that time is not on our or anyone’s side. Therefore we urgently need to accelerate...the formation of a new government,” Khalil said in a statement from his office.
“We have not seen serious movement in forming a government so far. As finance minister I repeat my warning and stress the need to speed it up so that the new government can get to work on the source of the problems and work on fixing them.”
Following May’s election, Lebanon is being run by a caretaker government while Prime Minister-designate Saad Al-Hariri forms a new Cabinet.
Lebanon is the world’s third-most indebted nation with a debt-to-GDP ratio of more than 150 percent. It climbed from around 130 percent in 2011, before war in neighboring Syria, and the arrival of more than a million refugees, depressed growth and paralyzed government decision-making.
The dire economic situation and unsustainable public debt levels are top priorities for the next government.
The International Monetary Fund has said Lebanon’s debt trajectory is unsustainable and needs immediate action, otherwise debt-to-GDP could hit 180 percent by 2023.


Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

Updated 16 sec ago
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Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

  • The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province
  • Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan

BEIRUT: Buses were gathering on Friday in a southwestern sliver of Syria near the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to transfer rebel fighters and civilians to opposition territory further north, a monitor said.
The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control.
Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan, a war monitor and a rebel source told AFP.
The deal included safe passage to northern Syria for any hard-liners who refuse to live under government control, and buses began entering the area Friday to carry out the transfers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The buses reached government-controlled territory in Quneitra on Thursday, and today they began crossing into opposition areas for the evacuation,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said it remained unclear how many fighters and civilians would ultimately be evacuated, but that the buses would likely be picking up people from multiple locations in Quneitra and the adjacent buffer.
A rebel source told AFP that the evacuations were expected to begin around mid-morning on Friday.
Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province wedged between the buffer to the west and the Syrian province of Daraa to its east.
One month ago, Syria’s regime launched an operation to retake rebel areas in Daraa and Quneitra, using military force and surrender deals brokered by its Russian ally.
Fighting forced several hundred thousand people to flee, and as many as 140,000 remain displaced in Quneitra, according to the United Nations.
The UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) warned they are inaccessible to aid organizations based around an hour away in Damascus because of a lack of approvals.
Both Israel and Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, have kept their borders closed to the displaced.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move never recognized internationally.