Holding back tears, Mikati, one of the richest men in the country, spoke about Lebanese mothers who cannot feed their children, and students whose parents can no longer afford to send them to school. “The situation is difficult but not impossible to deal with if we cooperate,” Mikati told reporters at the presidential palace, where the new government was announced.
The agreement breaks a 13-month deadlock that saw the country slide deeper into financial chaos and poverty over the past year. Lebanon has been without a fully empowered government since the catastrophic August 4, 2020 explosion at Beirut port, which forced the resignation of then Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s government. Rival political groups had been locked in disagreement over the make-up of a new government since then, hastening the country’s economic meltdown.
The new Cabinet of 24 ministers headed by Mikati, a billionaire businessman, was announced by the president’s office, and later by the Secretary-General of the Council of Ministers, Mahmoud Makkieh. Ministers were handpicked by the same politicians who have ruled the country for the past decades, blamed by many for corruption and mismanagement leading to the country’s current crisis.
Many of them, however, are experts in their field, including Firas Abiad, director general of the public hospital leading the coronavirus fight who has won praise for his transparency in handling the pandemic.
A top Central Bank official, Youssef Khalil, was appointed as finance minister, and Bassam Mawlawi, a judge, is the new interior minister.