BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati announced on Friday that he would convene a cabinet session soon, saying the situation in the country is “very difficult and the people should not have to face further crises”.
His remarks came after protesters stormed the health ministry building in Beirut on Friday morning to oppose the lifting of drug subsidies, which spiked healthcare prices vital.
Arab News has learned from a source close to Mikati that Information Minister George Kordahi will resign from the government at the next cabinet session. Kordahi’s recent statements regarding Saudi Arabia have prompted the Kingdom and other Gulf states to sever diplomatic and economic ties with Lebanon.
The Lebanese political group backed by Iran Hezbollah insisted that Kordahi not resign to defuse the diplomatic crisis, citing “national sovereignty”.
President Michel Aoun recently told a Lebanese military delegation that “Lebanon is always seeking better relations with Arab countries, especially the Gulf”.
He added: “We hope that what led to a problem with these countries will be quickly resolved. It is important that the interests of the Lebanese people are not harmed and that they do not pay for what is happening.
In an interview with the Arabic-language daily Al-Akhbar, published on Friday, Aoun said he was not keen on the information minister being sacked during the cabinet session and would prefer the decision to be made personally. by Kordahi.
Mikati visited Aoun on Friday morning and informed him of his intention to hold a cabinet meeting. He then went to the headquarters of the General Labor Union, where he announced: “There are over 100 items on the cabinet’s agenda, (so we have to hold) a session soon to manage the issues. state affairs and speed up the public budget and send it back to parliament. for approval, along with the approval of the necessary reforms (to reach a) agreement with the International Monetary Fund.
Cabinet sessions were suspended less than a month after Mikati formed his government in September, as Hezbollah and the Amal movement called for the impeachment of Tarek Bitar, the judge investigating the blast of the Port of Beirut in August 2020, accusing Bitar of “politicizing” the investigation.
Following the deadly clashes between supporters of Hezbollah and the Amal movement protesting against the handling of the investigation by Bitar on one side and the Lebanese Armed Forces and unidentified armed men on the other in Tayouneh on October 14 of this year, Hezbollah and the Amal movement refused to attend cabinet sessions. , with Hezbollah claiming that LAF was responsible for the clashes and calling for the arrest of LAF affiliates involved in the incident.
Successive crises have exacerbated Lebanon’s already disastrous economic collapse. The Lebanese pound continued to lose value; it is currently trading at 23,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.
“Lebanon has no choice but to resort to the IMF, and the negotiations could last until 2022,” Mikati said. “But through the IMF, our country is giving a certain signal to the world that Lebanon can recover and must be supported.
“The world does not want Lebanon to fall and is ready to help us,” he continued. “And when I say the world, I also mean the Arab countries. But first we have to do the required work. We have reached an unprecedented rate of inflation due to years and years of subsidies, which we can no longer provide because the public purse is unable to support it. “
He announced that measures would be taken “at the beginning of December to obtain assistance from the World Bank for 250,000 families, for an amount of 245 million dollars”. Mikati said the payment process will begin in late 2021 or early 2022.
“There is aid for 40,000 families residing in villages 700 meters above sea level, valued at $ 165 per family,” he added. “We will also cooperate with the United Nations Food Program, which will allocate 600 million dollars to the Lebanese, from the beginning of next year.”
Mikati also made reference to the smuggling and illegal storage of subsidized drugs for chronic and cancerous diseases and noted that an investigation into the lack of subsidized infant formula on the market showed that it was “used for the purposes of in dairy plants ”.
Mikati stressed that the government has no intention of selling state assets at this time. “Now is not the right time,” he said. “Our current priority is to reform all sectors and improve the supply of electricity.”
Ali Darwish, an MP from the Mikati parliamentary bloc, said Mikati had “stepped up his political consultations in search of a way out of the political crisis”.
Darwish told Arab News: “Everyone was convinced of the need for cabinet sessions. Everyone agrees on the need to defuse crises and on the fact that legal problems should only be solved within the justice system itself. When paralysis affects the public sector and the health sector, no party, including Hezbollah, has an interest in standing in the way of solutions, because everyone will be affected.