Lebanon gets country’s richest man as PM amid economic turmoil

WION Web Team
Beirut Published: Sep 11, 2021, 02:05 PM(IST)

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati leaves the al-Omari mosque in the Lebanese capital Beirut on September 10, 2021, ahead of meeting with the Lebanese President. Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

The country is in the midst economic crisis. It's currency's value has collapsed, unemployment and inflation have skyrocketed, electricity, fuel and medicines supply are in short supply, and the country has been rocked by nearly two years of protests calling for wholesale political reforms.

Lebanon’s richest man, Najib Mikati, was appointed the country’s Prime Minister, ending over a year-long political vacuum that began after the August 2020 Beirut port explosion.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati, who has already twice served as premier, will lead a cabinet of ministers that will preside over an economic depression which the World Bank has termed “one of the world's worst since the mid-19th century”.

The country is in the midst economic crisis. It's currency's value has collapsed, unemployment and inflation have skyrocketed, electricity, fuel and medicines supply are in short supply, and the country has been rocked by nearly two years of protests calling for wholesale political reforms.

Addressing the nation after the meeting, Mikati said he would try to “stop the country’s collapse.”

“The situation is difficult, it is very difficult… However, it is not impossible if we unite ... our priority is to appease the suffering of the Lebanese people,” he said, adding, “I won't spare an opportunity to open doors with the Arab world. Today, Lebanon is in need of the Arab world.”

The new government includes George Qiradhi, who was previously the host of a popular television show, "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire," and a controversial finance minister Yousuf Khalil. Khalil was the director of financial operations at Lebanon Central Bank and the architect of a financial program that sought to attract deposits by offering high interest rates.

Lebanon had been without a proper functioning government since then-prime minister Hassan Diab resigned days after a massive blast on 4 August 2020 destroyed Beirut port and the surrounding area.

The explosion, caused by improperly stored ammonium nitrate, killed 203 people, injured at least 6,000 others and left billions of dollars of damage.

The disaster—coming in the midst of the pandemic —triggered a wave of outrage against the government.

Protesters blamed the blast on corruption, incompetence and a system of patronage where jobs are given in lieu of political support.

(With inputs from agencies)

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