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Lebanese PM Heads to Paris on Friday for Macron Talks

Lebanese PM Heads to Paris on Friday for Macron Talks

Wednesday, 22 September, 2021 - 06:15
Lebanese PM Najib Mikati. (AFP)

Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati will visit Paris on Friday on his first overseas trip since his cabinet won parliament’s vote of confidence this week.

He will meet with President Emmanuel Macron, who has been spearheading international efforts to help Lebanon out of its crippling crises.

Macron was among the first officials to welcome the formation of the new government, over a year since the previous one resigned in wake of the cataclysmic Beirut port blast.

He urged Lebanese officials to commit to pledges to carry out much needed reform and to allow the international community to help the country.

The new government desperately needs to lift Lebanon out of what the World Bank has called one of the world’s worst economic crises since the 1850s.

The Lebanese pound has lost almost 90 percent of its value against the dollar on the black market, inflation has soared and people’s savings are trapped in banks.

With foreign currency reserves plummeting, the cash-strapped state has been struggling to maintain subsidies on basic goods.

Petrol and medicine have become scarce and the state barely provides two hours of electricity a day.

Subsidies need to be lifted and a social safety net put in place to ease the blow on the most vulnerable.

To do this, analysts have said, the cabinet will need to relaunch talks with the International Monetary Fund to unlock billions of dollars in financial aid.

Lebanon, after defaulting on its debt in March 2020 for the first time in history, started talks with the IMF, but these quickly hit a wall amid bickering over who should bear the brunt of the losses.

The international community has demanded sweeping reforms and a forensic audit of the country’s central bank before any financial assistance is disbursed.

The previous government in 2020 announced a rescue roadmap that included electricity sector reform, restructuring of the banking sector and lifting the official dollar peg.

But these steps have yet to be implemented.

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