France Tells Lebanese Politicians No More Candy

France Tells Lebanese Politicians No More Candy

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A French roadmap for Lebanon’s next government calls for the immediate resumption of talks with the International Monetary Fund to fix the shattered economy. French President Emmanuel Macron arrives to Beirut with a mission. France tells Lebanese politicians no more candy as if they were little children.

The new French orders also demand swift moves to fight graft and introduce other reforms that the entrenched corrupt politicians have delayed for years.

DELIVER OR SANCTIONS

Reuters reviewed the orders a day after French President Emmanuel Macron on a visit to Beirut delivered a stark message to Lebanon’s leaders: deliver on reforms by the end of October or face sanctions.

Most of the corrupt politicians, including President Michel Aoun, have parked their money in European banks giving France immense leverage to institute reforms.

Macron, whose pressure prompted Lebanon’s bickering leaders to agree on a new prime minister, has spearheaded international efforts to set Lebanon on a new course after decades of corrupt rule led to its deepest crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

Lebanon’s banks are paralyzed, its currency has crashed and sectarian tensions are rising. On top of that, a huge port blast last month smashed a swathe of Beirut, killing more than 190 people and causing damage estimated at up to $4.6 billion.

The new orders lay down detailed demands in line with Macron’s call for “credible commitments”, from two Lebanese officials. The Lebanese media also published the new orders.

The French presidency and Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Michel Aoun’s government has resisted the audit of the central bank because it would list the names of the politicians who got paid illicitly large sums of money. But in the hands of France, such details provides it with more leverage to later get rid of the lot.

FRENCH ROADMAP

Within 15 days of taking office, Lebanon’s new government should have set out a time frame for IMF talks, the draft says.

Within a month, it must implement an IMF-approved capital control law, start auditing the central bank and launch reforms to the electricity sector, which still cannot provide the nation of about 6 million people with 24-hour power.

Michel Aoun’s government has resisted the audit of the central bank because it would list the names of the politicians who got paid illicitly large sums of money. But in the hands of France, such details provides it with more leverage to later get rid of the lot.

Also within a month, Michel Aoun should scrap current plans to build a controversial power station in Selaata; as well as set up a national anti-corruption authority.

Michel Aoun owns the land in Selaata. Bought ahead of time to install an electrical station.

The political parties agreed on Mustapha Adib, the former ambassador to Germany, as the new prime minister hours before Macron arrived. Before taking up the post, he must secure approval for his cabinet, which usually takes months. Macron set a two-week deadline.

“The challenges are overwhelming and cannot bear delay,” Adib said after meeting politicians on Wednesday.

FRANCE TELLS LEBANESE POLITICIANS NO MORE CANDY

Lebanon’s talks with the IMF were launched in May but stalled in July as the government argued with the political parties and banks about the scale of losses in the banking system, which had largely funded a mountain of public debt.

Mohanad Hage Ali of the Carnegie Middle East Center said the reforms would be a challenge for the political elite as it would make it tough to finance their networks of influence.

He said:

It shifts politics from the old regime, which looks at public services as a set of spoils, into a new economy in which the old practices cannot go on.

But a senior political source said parties were making some concessions, partly due to French pressure. “It is ambitious but with (Macron) coaching Lebanon, it might work,” the source said.

THE REGIONAL POISONS

While Macron has led international diplomacy on Lebanon, other powers still have considerable sway. Such as Iran via its ally the heavily armed Muslim Shi’ite party Hezbollah.

Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival, has exercised influence over Lebanon’s Sunnis. Further, the United States, which lists Hezbollah as a terrorist group, is a major donor.

The Lebanese Forces, a Christian party staunchly opposed to Hezbollah, said expert ministers in the new government must act independently. It asked that they don’t consult a political master, unlike the previous cabinet now acting as caretaker.

Gebran Bassil, head of the biggest Christian party, the Hezbollah-allied Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), said:

If this government does not succeed it means we are going towards a bigger catastrophe.

Gebran Bassil is another corrupt politician that has amassed a fortune ever since his father-in-law Michel Aoun became President. It’s all in the family.

Reuters contributed to this article.

France Tells Lebanese Politicians No More Candy

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