Lebanon’s top Christian cleric said on Sunday a new government must deliver urgent economic and political reforms in the national interest, rather than returning to past corrupt ways that have plunged the Middle Eastern nation into an economic crisis. In effect, Lebanon’s Maronite Patriarch warns the Lebanese government.
Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rai, leader of the Maronite church, has an influential role as religious leader of the biggest Christian community in Lebanon. The Lebanese political powers are maintained by Christians, Muslims and Druze sects.
Prime Minister-designate Mustapha Adib, a Sunni Muslim, is in talks to swiftly form a cabinet by mid September. He is under pressure from French President Emmanuel Macron. Picking ministers in the past has taken months of haggling.
MUCH NEEDED FRENCH GUIDANCE
Macron has led international efforts to fix the country of about six million people whose corrupt politicians brought it down to its knees. The country is still reeling from a huge Aug. 4 port blast that shattered Beirut, exacerbating Lebanon’s deepest crisis since its 1975-1990 civil war.
The patriarch called for an emergency government that was “small, qualified and strong” in his Sunday sermon. He said the new cabinet should not return to past ways of “clientelism, corruption and bias”.
Fateful times require a government in which there is no monopoly of portfolios, no sharing out of benefits, no dominance by one group, and no landmines that disrupt its work and decisions.
Adding it must “negotiate responsibly” with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
An-Nahar newspaper, the most respected media outlet, carried his comments.
The government started talks with the IMF this year by the outgoing government; but quickly stalled amid a row between ministers, politicians and banks about the scale of losses in the banking system. The losses sent the currency into tailspin and driving many people into poverty.
Reuters contributed to this article.