Lebanese economic bodies call for assistance amid government formation crisis

Lebanese economic bodies call for assistance amid government formation crisis
The new Lebanese prime minister to head the next government is expected to be named within two days. (AFP)
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Updated 20 October 2020

Lebanese economic bodies call for assistance amid government formation crisis

Lebanese economic bodies call for assistance amid government formation crisis
  • Parliamentary blocs hope Aoun will not delay assignment consultations

BEIRUT: The new Lebanese prime minister to head the next government is expected to be named within two days. Meanwhile, questions are being raised regarding Thursday’s parliamentary consultations, with President Michael Aoun rumored to be considering delaying them for a second time.

Former Prime Minister Saad Hariri is the only name proposed to form the new government, with the two Christian parties — the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) and the Lebanese Forces — objecting to his nomination.

Richard Kouyoumjian, former minister and serving member of the Lebanese Forces parliamentary bloc, said that his party’s objection does not mean it is refusing to participate in the binding consultations.

“The mere participation of the bloc’s representatives in the parliamentary consultations makes it legal as per the common agreed values and laws, whether or not the bloc names the person who will be assigned to head the new government,” he said.

Kouyoumjian called for “the implementation of the constitution” and said: “Enough bidding in the name of the sect.”

The stance of the Lebanese Forces means the FPM is the only bloc disrupting the parliamentary process.

The Lebanese Forces’ decision not to propose anyone to head the government differed from its position in the two previous parliamentary consultations. In these consultations, the party proposed Ambassador Nawaf Salam.

Future parliamentary bloc member Mohammad Hajjar hoped that the consultations would not be postponed as “it will not be in the interest of the country and the people.”

He told Arab News: “The first postponement was not justified. We said that the French initiative is an opportunity to rescue the country and that it should not be wasted. We said that postponement does not change anything, but rather will be an obstruction that does not benefit the country. We hope to have a prime minister assigned on Thursday by a parliamentary majority.”

On whether he expects a postponement of consultations under new pretexts, Hajjar said: “Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi called for the application of the law that does not refer to Christian or regional charters in the assignment process. We say that 22 Christian members of parliament will come to the next parliamentary consultations in the Baabda Palace, and some of them might name Hariri while others might not. Therefore, the consultations must be held so that we proceed to form the government.”

Amid the political ruckus, The Lebanese economic bodies representing the various fields of the private sector have launched a new call for help to save the country.

In a meeting on Monday, the groups called for “the immediate formation of a government that can implement the French initiative.”

The economic bodies warned that “we will reach a stage where there is zero liquidity in hard currencies, the dollar exchange rate will rise uncontrollably, the purchasing power will diminish, and the inflation rate will rise. This means an almost complete closure of institutions, mass unemployment, and societal poverty across all sects.”

The experts highlighted that they had previously warned “of this tragic fate repeatedly, and here we are. On the ground, the structure of the country is collapsing, the economy — with all its components — is deteriorating at record speed, and institutions are breathing their last.”

In a position announced on Monday, the International Monetary Fund projected that “Lebanese economy will see one of the region’s sharpest economic contractions this year at 25 percent.”

The Crisis Observatory at the American University of Beirut estimated the cost of closing the poverty gap in Lebanon in 2020 for those below the minimum poverty line at $838 million.

The group explained that this cost had increased three times since 2019, due to a spike in poverty from 8 percent to 23 percent.


Trump grants Bahrain’s King Hamad top honor on last day in office

Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
Updated 46 min 28 sec ago

Trump grants Bahrain’s King Hamad top honor on last day in office

Outgoing US President Donald Trump awarded the King of Bahrain the Legion of Merit with the Degree of Chief Commander. (File/AP)
  • King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa was given the US award after Bahrain normalised relations with Israel
  • The king was also recognized for his ‘prominent role in pushing bilateral cooperation’

LONDON: Bahrain’s King Hamad was awarded a rare medal by US President Donald Trump in recognition of his “remarkable efforts” to consolidate relations and the close partnership between the two countries, Bahrain News Agency (BNA) reported on Tuesday.
Trump decorated the monarch with the Legion of Merit, Degree Chief Commander, “a rarely-awarded, prestigious decoration that can only be bestowed by the president, typically to chiefs of state or heads of government of other countries,” the White House said.
The king was also recognized for his “prominent role in pushing bilateral cooperation to broader and more comprehensive horizons, which promoted the common interests of the two countries and its peoples,” BNA said.
The outgoing American leader said that he was “pleased to present this medal to the king, who over decades contributed to establishing Bahrain’s position as a steadfast strategic ally and partner working alongside the United States.”
Trump added that Manama’s support for the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, which is stationed in Bahrain, had a supportive role in enabling it to perform its multiple tasks and he praised the king’s courage and wise leadership vision for his support for peace and his decision to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel.
He described this decision as the start of a new era of economic and security cooperation among the most important US partners in the Middle East and made peace in the region a possible process that would reshape the region’s landscape in a positive way for future generations.
The American president said that the partnership between the two countries would become deeper in the Middle East.
“The king’s decorating of this prestigious medal is an indication of the high position that he enjoys in the US, and the great appreciation for the prominent roles and major contributions he has made in enhancing security, stability, and prosperity with the vision of spreading peace in the region,” the statement added.
In its final days in office, the Trump administration announced the designation of both Bahrain and the UAE as “major security partners” of the US, a status unique to both countries that demonstrated a “new level of partnership” and “represents an enduring commitment to economic and security cooperation.
“It also reflects their extraordinary courage, determination, and leadership in entering into the Abraham Accords,” the White House said on Friday.
Bahrain, the UAE, Morocco, and Sudan joined Egypt and Jordan to establish full diplomatic relations with Israel last year, in deals brokered by the US.
Also, on Friday, Trump decorated Morocco’s King Mohammed VI with the same accolade bestowed on King Hamad for “vision and personal courage,” especially his decision to resume ties with Israel, that “have positively reshaped the landscape of the Middle East and North Africa and ushered in a new era of security and prosperity for both our countries and the world.”
The Legion of Merit is a military award that was created to honor Allied leaders in World War II and had gone into obscurity until it was revived by Trump, who last month also presented it to the prime ministers of Australia, India, and Japan.

(With AFP)