This Week in Lebanon

Tuesday, December 15, 2020
Heidi Ahmed
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DECEMBER 11, 2020
Hariri Offers Cabinet Proposal and Aoun Counters
International Funds Waiting on Lebanon Government Formation
Caretaker Government Pledges to Keep Subsidies for Basic Goods
Retired Brigadier General Says LAF National Security Strategy Lacking

 

Hariri Offers Cabinet Proposal and Aoun Counters
In effort to finalize a government formation before French President Macron’s visit later this month, Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri submitted a Cabinet lineup proposal of 18 ministers to President Michel Aoun. On Thursday, President Aoun responded with a counter-proposal dashing hopes that a Lebanese government would be confirmed soon. (Arab News)

ANALYSIS

“Now in its fourth month, Lebanon is unable to form a government due to officials arguing over their own self-interests rather than the interests of their citizens, in a country which now has a poverty rate over 50% and people can’t even feed themselves. This has become frustrating for international donors and multilateral agencies who have no one to talk to about steps to save the country. Meanwhile the house of Lebanon burns.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Caretaker Government Pledges to Keep Subsidies for Basic Goods
On Tuesday, Lebanon’s caretaker government pledged to make every effort to keep subsidies for bread and essential medicines that are set to expire soon. Ministers agreed to draft a plan within a week that would cut spending, possibly including reducing the oil bill, in order to keep subsidies for essential goods (Reuters)

ANALYSIS

“Maybe the second time around, the government will create an effective subsidies regime. The World Bank indicated that “A rough analysis shows up to 80% of the subsidies may actually be benefiting the wealthiest 50% with only 20% going to the poorer half.” Rationing cards will help if distribution is transparent but the best remedy is restoring health to the financial sector and that requires reforms, reforms, reforms.”
ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader


International Funds Waiting on Lebanon Government Formation
During last week’s international aid conference for Lebanon French President Macron said a fund handled by the World Bank, UN and EU would be set up to supply aid directly to the Lebanese people through non-governmental organizations. The aid will provide food, healthcare, education and reconstruction of the Beirut port. Macron reiterated that international economic help will not come to Lebanon’s government without the formation of a government and evidence of steps toward reforms. (Reuters)

ANALYSIS

“As the country teeters on near default and as their leaders argue about the makeup of a new government, France and its allies took stock of the Lebanon situation. It is clear that the people of Lebanon cannot wait any longer for their government to save them. Now is the time to switch international funding from incentives that encourage government reform to meeting the direct needs of people of Lebanon. It’s now critical to support their immediate humanitarian needs and longer term capacity building of its citizens through civil society organizations that address education, election reform, anti-poverty programs, and small and medium enterprise growth.”
-ATFL President Edward M. Gabriel


Retired Brigadier General Says LAF National Security Strategy Lacking
Lebanese Armed Forces retired Brigadier General Maroun Hitti discussed the LAF’s lack of national security strategy. He argues that its planning has been limited to force upgrades. The absence of higher level documents on national security guidances has “limited the LAF to working partially from the bottom up,” he said. (Tawazun)

ANALYSIS

“Since the civil war years, Lebanon has not defined its national priorities for security and defense. Lacking an overall vision for the country’s security deprives it of realizing its internal and external goals and objectives. This should come as no surprise as the first iteration should come from the Council of Ministers which reflects the power-sharing bargain among political/sectarian elites. Its inability to discharge this most basic framing the country’s security goals is another indicator that 30 years after the end of the civil war, Lebanon is still at the mercy of leaders that have no national consciousness.”
-ATFL Policy Director Jean AbiNader

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.