BEIRUT: Hopes that Lebanon would have a new government before the end of the year have been dashed with Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri warning of “clear complications hindering the birth of the new leadership.”
Speaking on Wednesday after his 14th meeting with President Michel Aoun, Hariri said that despite attempts to halt Lebanon’s collapse, “the existing political problems are clear.”
He added: “We must be humble and think about the country’s interests. A government must be formed after the new year.”
The caretaker prime minister addressed the Lebanese people, saying: “Do not let anyone tell you that we cannot stop the current collapse, but President Aoun and I need a government of specialists and experts who know what they are doing, without being politicized.”
He added: “We want people who tell us ‘no’ when we are wrong. We want people who can actually benefit the country, so that we can carry out the reforms we want.”
Hariri said that trust between Lebanon’s political parties needed to be rebuilt, but warned “there is no time left — the country is rapidly collapsing.”
After a previous meeting with Aoun, Hariri was hopeful of forming a government before Christmas, saying “there is positivity and great openness.”
However, leaks in the lead-up to Wednesday’s meeting showed there was still a dispute over the interior, justice and energy ministries, which the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) insists on controlling as part of a political deal to break the government deadlock.
International pressure, especially from France, to form a government committed to reform has failed to end the stalemate.
Sources close to Hariri told Arab News that Aoun was “responsive” to the prime minister’s suggestions, “but there are those who interfered and overturned this response.”
Future bloc deputy Mohammed Al-Hajjar said: “It is Gebran Bassil (FPM president). He does not want to see Hariri heading a government of specialists.”
Former prime ministers met with Hariri before his Republican Palace visit and agreed to push on with the French initiative to form a government without links to the parties in power.
The political impasse raises fears over Lebanon’s growing poverty levels, with the number of poor likely to exceed half the population by 2021.
Lebanese people fear the start of the new year in light of talks about harsh measures needed to support basic materials subsidized by the state, including fuel, flour and medicine.
FPM deputy Alain Aoun said: “There has been no decision yet regarding the government. There are many unresolved issues. No team will waiver in favor of the other.”
Independent MP Jihad Al-Samad said: “There are 53 laws relating to the reform process, workflow regulations, and performance of ministries and official departments. These are locked in officials’ drawers and are not being applied. How can reform take place without applying the existing laws and provisions?”
Ghazi Wazni, the caretaker finance minister, said on Wednesday that banking secrecy will be lifted for a year and consultants Alvarez & Marsal asked to resume its financial audit of the central bank, ministries and public institutions.
The firm withdrew from the investigation on Nov. 20, saying it “did not obtain sufficient information to initiate the audit.”
At the time the central bank invoked secrecy laws on cash, credit and banking to avoid providing the required information.