Wednesday, July 31, 2019

The stalemate that has frozen cabinet meetings – and any movement on actions to proceed with the government’s legislative agenda – may end this week according to the Prime Minister’s office. The tension erupted when there was a shoot-off between rival Druze militias which resulted in two deaths and others wounded. The shooting involved the retinue of Minister Saleh al-Gharib, an ally of Druze politician Talal Arslan who is close to Damascus and enjoys the backing of the heavily armed Shiite Hezbollah. Arslan holds the party of Druze leader Walid Jumblatt responsible for the bloodshed. The holdup centers on which body will carry out the investigation and possible prosecution.

A senior official told Reuters the paralysis has held up discussions of the 2020 budget, a vital part of efforts to p...

Monday, July 29, 2019

While the government can be congratulated on finally adopting a 2019 budget, the verdict from economists and analysts is unanimous: “nice first-step, now get serious on reforms for the 2020 budget.” Investors remain to be convinced that the economy is worth investing in when reforms related to regulatory transparency, combating corruption, reforming the public sector, advancing social services, cleaning up the environment, and reducing external debt servicing obligations, among others, are still outstanding. Although the Finance Minister and the Prime Minister are planning to have the 2020 budget submitted on schedule this fall as mandated by the constitution, many remain skeptical that the next round of parliamentary compromises will be forthcoming as that will pose challenges for the exi...

Friday, July 19, 2019

There are those in Lebanon who believe that Russia is a friend that needs to be cultivated, hence the sweetheart deal on the oil storage facilities in Tripoli. There are high hopes that Russian companies will invest in Lebanon as a prelude to reconstruction contracts in Syria, and Russian companies want to make use of Lebanese contacts to open opportunities in West Africa. Lebanese fans point to the participation of Novatek, Russia’s second-largest gas company, in the first offshore gas lease as proof of their interest in Lebanon.

As an analysis in Al-Monitor pointed out, “Although the United States maintains an important degree of diplomatic clout in Lebanese energy matters, Russian economic investments in the sector have far outpaced those of the Americans, and Russian officials and busin...

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

As criticism grows among various political elites in Lebanon over rising sectarian strains that erupted recently in violence, a recent poll, the Arab Barometer, released its findings. The results are useful in developing perspectives on Lebanese society that may give indications of future responses to shifts in the political space of the country.

First, a caution: as with all polling, much depends on the way questions are phrased; the size and representation of the participants; the type of survey instrument which could be by questionnaire, face-to-face, or phone, to name the most prominent; the timing – is it before or after a critical event; and the reliability of the firm conducting the survey.

This is the fifth edition of the Arab Barometer and analysts have given it high marks in all ca...

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Our recent ATFL delegation to Lebanon was a chance to listen and assess in four areas: the economy/national budget, the Syrian refugees, the southern border, and regional politics. What we learned is both helpful and challenging to our mission to better inform and educate Americans about the value of the US-Lebanon relationship. 

We started with a detailed briefing at the US Embassy, which only increased our appreciation of the professionalism and dedication of Ambassador Elizabeth Richard and her staff. They work hard to master the granularity of what’s going on in Lebanon as few others are able to do. After two weeks of meetings and site visits, we are even more aware of their efforts to have balanced insights into a very tough neighborhood and very difficult issues. 

My conclusions and op...

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