US prioritises reforms and fighting corruption for next Lebanese government

US prioritises reforms and fighting corruption for next Lebanese government
US prioritises reforms and fighting corruption for next Lebanese government

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - The US government is not putting much emphasis on the name of the new Lebanese Prime Minister Mustapha Adib and is instead stressing the need for an anti-corruption drive and urgent reform agenda to be addressed.

A State Department official indicated on Monday that the US position stems from the ability of such a government in Beirut to carry out these reforms.

“We are aware of Lebanese President [Michel] Aoun’s appointment of diplomat Mustapha Adib as Lebanon’s prime minister-designate on August 31,” the official said without ascribing any position on the credentials of the new Prime Minister, the second to take office this year.

Instead, the US government is setting its sights on the action of the forthcoming cabinet, once and if it is formed.

“Any government must demonstrate it is ready to act in the interests of the Lebanese people by fighting corruption and implementing reforms that can address the demands of the Lebanese people for economic opportunity, accountability, and transparency,” the official added.

It reiterated support for the protestors that have taken to the streets since last October demanding structural reforms to Lebanon’s stricken economy.

Following the August 4 explosion, the US has upped its call for significant reforms in the country, transparency measures, and economic stability.

“Only through charting a new direction dedicated to reform and anti-corruption can the next government help Lebanon exit this current crisis,” the US official said.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), while welcoming the nomination of Mr Adib, highlighted the urgent need for a mandate to carry out major economic reforms. “We welcome the nomination of a new prime minister and hope that a new government will be formed shortly with a mandate to implement the policies and reforms that Lebanon needs to address the current crisis and restore sustainable growth,” an IMF spokesperson told The National.

Lebanon has been holding talks with the IMF since last March seeking billions in dollars as a bailout. But the failure of the previous Lebanese government to form a consensus view in its talks with the IMF and failure to carry out banking and public sectors reforms has hindered progress.

The Lebanese currency has lost about  80 per cent of its value since October, and the country finds itself with deepening infrastructure and humanitarian crisis after the explosion.

US Assistant Secretary of State David Schenker is due to arrive in Lebanon on Wednesday.

“He will meet with civil society representatives, discuss US assistance efforts in the wake of the August 4 Beirut port explosion, and urge Lebanese leaders to implement reforms,” the State Department said.

Earlier this month, US Undersecretary of State David Hale visited Lebanon and delivered a stern message to its political leaders urging comprehensive reforms.

Lebanon has accumulated more than $90 billion of debt, equivalent to roughly 170 per cent of the country's gross domestic product, according to Reuters.

The new Prime Minister is seen as a consensus candidate unlike his predecessor Mr Diab who was closer to Hezbollah. The Lebanese militant group has been resistant to an IMF bailout and security reforms that would undercut its influence at different border passages.

It is unclear if growing public pressure following the Beirut explosion has changed Hezbollah’s calculus on the issue or if Mr Adib will have enough leeway to execute such an agenda.

Updated: September 1, 2020 07:32 AM

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