Mikati took office, after a year of political stalemate that exacerbated the financial crisis, stressing that he set his sights on reviving talks with the Fund.
The “National News Agency” quoted Mikati in an interview on the “Twenty 30” program on the LBC satellite channel that “communication with the International Monetary Fund is the basis,” and he said, “We seek to complete negotiations with it to reach basic foundations.”
He pointed out that “the amount we obtained from the International Monetary Fund will not be affected until a specific spending destination is agreed upon,” noting that “he does not see the time for privatization.”
The Prime Minister stressed that “the effort today is to update the economic recovery plan in order to get out of the predicament we are living in,” and continued, “We will not now give a series of ranks and salaries, and the financing card will be funded by the World Bank.”
Mikati, a billionaire business magnate, faces a difficult path to tackle one of the most severe financial crises of the modern era. That caused three-quarters of its population to suffer from poverty, while its currency lost 90 percent of its value in the past two years.
“Reforms that can and cannot be done”
Regarding his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron, Mikati said: “There are points I talked about with the French president, foremost of which is maintaining security and negotiating with the International Fund, given that there is no liquidity, and there is a stumbling block in banks. As for the third issue, it is the social safety net, in addition to to the educational file and the health file.
He continued: “President Macron was insistent on the issue of reforms, and I was frank with him about what reforms can and cannot be implemented.”
Macron urged, during a meeting with Mikati, on Friday, to implement urgent reform measures and to move forward with the International Monetary Fund talks, stressing that France will continue to support Lebanon.
On Monday, Mikati said, “The government’s goal is to take the stamp from the International Monetary Fund, which opens many doors for us.”
In his most detailed comments so far regarding the approach he will take to try to overcome the devastating financial collapse that is ravaging Lebanon, Mikati said in the interview with LBC: “The priority is to protect small depositors… the responsible parties should carry out their duties and bear the losses in the form of fair to all.
He added, “I am trying with the experts to prevent a (hercat) procedure on bank accounts, and the depositor should not bear the loss, and the main goal is to get his money.”
Mikati explained that “the priority is to protect small depositors and their access to (Fresh dollars),” and said: “The tendency is definitely to protect small depositors between fifty and 70 thousand dollars, and these will definitely take their money in dollars.”
Lebanon has largely blocked depositors and their dollar deposits for a period of up to about two years, forcing them to withdraw them in the local currency at an exchange rate that implies a devaluation of about 80 percent.
And Mikati considered that “the Banque du Liban does not have the ability to intervene monetary in the market,” explaining that “the monetary and credit law protects the governor of the Banque du Liban,” and said: “My government does not protect anyone, and I will strike an iron fist against any breach or corruption that occurs.”
Mikati said that “the $15 billion that was spent on subsidies, could have been used to build an electricity plant to solve this crisis.”
He stressed that he “is now seeking to secure the ‘fuel oil’ necessary to increase additional hours of electricity for citizens.”
He said, “There is a tender for electricity plants that will take place, and now we are trying, for example, to secure fuel oil through Iraqi fuel and Egyptian gas, and to change the electricity tariff in a way that takes into account social classes.”
He announced that the subject of services includes “electricity and water, passing through the airport, leading to the reactivation of Rayak and Qleiaat airports.”
One of the challenges Mikati faces is the limited lifespan of his government, as elections are scheduled for next spring.
Mikati confirmed that “the parliamentary elections will take place on March 27, while the municipal elections will be postponed.” He added: “Tomorrow, I will meet with the Minister of Interior to study this issue.”
He continued, “We are an executive authority, and I support the expatriate vote with amending the law if possible, and there is a parliamentary majority in the Parliament against canceling the right to vote for the expatriate.”
Also, Mikati revealed that he has not yet made his decision to run for the elections or not, and he will announce this decision before closing the candidacy door.
Investigation into the explosion of the port and “nitrates” of Baalbek
Mikati was satisfied with talking about the suspension of investigations into the Beirut port explosion case, saying that “it is a judicial order that I do not interfere in, but I hope that he will continue his mission in a balanced manner in accordance with the legal texts so that we can come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Mikati said: “We want to know the full truth about the Beirut explosion file, and I am personally following up on the matter and in constant contact with the Minister of Justice, Henry El-Khoury, and we have begun to take security precautions regarding the threats that were said to have targeted Judge Bitar.”
On Monday, the judicial investigator, Tariq Bitar, suspended his investigation into the Beirut port explosion case, amid condemnation by the families of the victims who fell in the explosion, for political obstruction of the investigation.
This is the second time that the investigation has been suspended on the explosion of the Port of Beirut, and Bitar will have to stop working on this file until the Beirut Court of Appeals decides on a lawsuit submitted by the former minister, Nouhad Machnouk, requesting that the case be transferred to another judge in response to a request to interrogate him as a defendant, A judicial source told AFP, requesting anonymity.
Non-governmental organizations have long warned of interference in judicial affairs and of pressure exerted by the political class on judges in the context of the Lebanese investigation into the explosion, knowing that no tangible results have yet been announced despite the passage of more than a year since the disaster.
Regarding the “nitrate” file in Baalbek, Mikati declared that “the bags of materials that were seized are different from those that were in the port, but the materials are similar to the materials that were found in the port.”
The horrific disaster that took place in Beirut on August 4, 2020, resulted from the storage of huge quantities of ammonium nitrate without preventive measures, according to the authorities. However, the reasons for the ignition of this substance are not yet clear.
Media investigations showed that officials, including the President of the Republic and security and military leaders, were aware of the dangers of storing this substance in the port, without doing anything.
Mikati expressed his regret for “the use of illegal crossings to violate Lebanon’s sovereignty,” stressing, “We are in an independent country that enjoys sovereignty and an Arab identity, and I do not allow it to be a platform against our Arab brothers in any way.”
Mikati’s statements come after a shipment of Iranian diesel entered the country without passing through state institutions, despite US sanctions.
Hezbollah supporters had received Iranian diesel tanks that entered Lebanon through Syria, where an Iranian ship docked, through an illegal border crossing, while Mikati confirmed that the shipments represented a violation of the country’s sovereignty.
Mikati added that Lebanon “must distance itself from differences and build good relations with the international community and Arab countries.”
He revealed that he will not visit Syria, without the approval of the international community, and added: “So far, there is no specific visit to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
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