Powerful Lebanese groups Hezbollah and Amal have said they would end a boycott of cabinet sessions, opening the way for ministers to meet after a three-month gap that has seen the economy and currency collapse further.
The groups, which back several ministers in a government made up of members from across the political spectrum, said in a statement on Saturday that the decision was driven by a desire to approve the 2022 budget and to discuss an economic recovery.
The Lebanese cabinet under Prime Minister Najib Mikati has not met since October 12 due to squabbling about the investigation into the deadly Beirut port explosion in August 2020, and a continuing diplomatic rift with Saudi Arabia and some Gulf states.
As a result, the government has been unable to take swift action to address the country’s dire economic crisis.
Since August 2019, the Lebanese pound has lost more than 90 percent of its value as more than three-quarters of the population has slipped into poverty.
The country’s inflation rate has exceeded those of crisis-hit Venezuela and Zimbabwe. The World Bank has said the Lebanese financial crisis is one of the worst since the mid-19th century.
In December, President Michel Aoun said Lebanon needs “six to seven years” to emerge from the crisis.
The economic meltdown began in 2019 when the financial system collapsed under the weight of huge state debt and lack of foreign currency – the result of decades of corruption, economic mismanagement, and unsustainable financing.
The international community has for years pressed Lebanon to reform its economy, implement anti-corruption mechanisms, and reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund in order to unlock billions of dollars in developmental aid.
Beirut is also struggling to resolve a diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, which have been critical of Hezbollah for its role in Yemen and other regional conflicts.