Lebanon’s foreign minister resigns in the middle of the economic crisis. The boat is threatening to sink “with everyone on board”, the statement says.
You’d think Nasif Hitti knew what he was getting into when he took up the post of Foreign Minister in Lebanon’s new government earlier this year. If you believe his words from Monday when he announced his resignation with a sharp tongue, this was obviously not the case. “I had high hopes for change and reform, but reality gave up a glimpse of hope,” said the experienced diplomat on Monday morning. He would not give up his principles and beliefs for a position of power.
The young Lebanese government under Prime Minister Hassan Diab took office in January after months of nationwide mass protests against corruption and mismanagement led to the resignation of the previous government. Diab promised to lead the country out of the political and economic crisis with a team of independent experts who were far from the country’s traditional power elite. However, observers criticized the fact that Diab’s cabinet was not an independent technocratic government either, since many cabinet members were closely connected to the old power elite.
Hitti said when he resigned, “I became part of this government assuming that I have an employer: Lebanon.” Instead, he found conflicting interests that were not intended to “serve and save the Lebanese people.” The boat is threatening to “sink with everyone on board,” warned Hitti. Lebanon threatens to turn into a “failed state”.
The Diab government has been negotiating grants with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for two months; in return, the government will have to implement structural reforms. However, on Monday Hitti doubted the reform will of his former cabinet colleagues. In June, two members of the Lebanese IMF negotiating team resigned in protest against a lack of will to reform.
The human rights organization Human Rights Watch also called for reforms on Monday. “Lebanon should commit to implementing the difficult but long overdue reforms that will boost its economy and ensure that all residents have access to health care and education,” the organization said.
Nasif Hitti is the first minister of the Diab government to step down in the face of the current crisis. According to reports from the local media, Charbel Wehbe, the former Secretary General of the Foreign Ministry in Beirut and Lebanese Ambassador to Paris, was in discussion on Monday afternoon as the new Lebanese Foreign Minister.
Since the end of the civil war in 1990, political events in the multi-denominational country have been determined by various centers of power, in the center of which is usually a prominent family, and in some cases a former warlord. Clientelist politics keeps your own electorate in line.
A denominational proportional representation system for the allocation of public posts has saved the country from autocratic rule, but at the same time, it has also promoted mismanagement. “In Lebanon, the corruption has been democratized,” it recently, the political analyst Marwan Muasher expressed. It was not based on one person or family – as in neighboring Syria, for example – but spread everywhere.
The current financial and economic crisis is the worst since the end of the civil war. The corona pandemic has further aggravated the situation. After easing the measures previously imposed, the number of new infections had recently risen significantly again.
The government has imposed a five-day lockdown on the Islamic Festival of Sacrifice last weekend and the coming weekend, from Thursday to Monday. Lebanese Health Minister Hamad Hassan had previously complained of a lack of discipline in complying with hygiene rules.