Lebanon’s Saad al-Hariri expects new cabinet in 7-10 days
Lebanon will have a new government within a week or ten days and the economy cannot withstand any more delay, Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri said in a television interview on Thursday.
“Everyone must make sacrifices… I urge the president to offer sacrifices to facilitate the formation of the government, regarding the deputy prime minister’s post and other issues,” Hariri told Lebanese broadcaster MTV.
Asked whether Free Patriotic Movement chief Gebran Bassil was obstructing the formation process, Hariri said: “The president does not wait for Bassil’s opinion and we might form a government within seven to ten days.
“I’m willing to give everyone seats from my share for the sake of the country,” Hariri added.
Since a parliamentary election in May, political wrangling has prevented Lebanon from forming a national unity government, raising concerns for the heavily-indebted economy.
Government officials, economists and bankers have warned that Lebanon’s economic situation is in rapid decline.
In September, workers and trade unions threatened with protests to press officials to agree on a new government, saying the political uncertainty was affecting investor confidence and much-needed economic reforms.
On Thursday, Bloomberg news agency reported that the World Bank halved Lebanon’s 2018 growth forecast to 1 percent, predicting its ratio of debt to gross domestic product would remain on an “unsustainable path”.
In its October report, the international financial institution cited a decision by the Lebanese Central Bank to halt subsidised housing loans as a main factor behind the slowdown in economic activity this year.
Bloomberg, citing the World Bank report, reported that the fiscal deficit is projected to grow to 8.3 percent of GDP in 2018 because of the public sector wage raise the government approved last year.
Subdued growth and high interest payments mean the debt-to-GDP ratio is expected to “persist in an unsustainable path toward 155 percent by end-2018”, Bloomberg reported.
While progress in bringing together rival parties in a government has been slow, lengthy negotiations are not unusual in Lebanon.
SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies