Power cut delays parliament voting session on new Lebanon cabinet

Lebanon’s parliament began a session on Monday that is scheduled to discuss the new cabinet’s policy program and hold a vote of confidence, after a nearly one-hour delay caused by a power cut.

Lebanon is battling a deep depression, with worsening fuel shortages translating into few or any hours of state-backed power a day and most Lebanese relying on private generators for electricity.

The session had been scheduled to start at 11 a.m. local time (0800 GMT) but the lights went out in the building now housing the parliament. When it began, Prime Minister Najib Mikati read out the cabinet’s draft policy programme.

“From the heart of the suffering of Beirut … our cabinet was born to light a candle in this hopeless darkness,” Mikati told parliament.

“What we are seeing today with the power cut in the session is evidence of the collapse of the state,” Ossama Saad, an independent member of parliament, told Al Jadeed local television as lawmakers waited outside the hall where they were supposed to meet.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s government was cobbled together after a year of political deadlock that has compounded Lebanon’s economic malaise.

The new government has promised action to address the country’s crippling crisis, including talks with the International Monetary Fund and a start to reforms.

Its draft policy programme said it would renew and develop a previous financial recovery plan, which set out a shortfall in the financial system of some $90 billion – a figure endorsed by the IMF.

But Mikati faces a tricky path to solid economic ground as the plan risks hitting the same resistance from officials and bankers it faced before, but some believe the gravity of the crisis may encourage many to make decisions they had previously resisted.

Lebanon’s financial system unraveled in late 2019. The root cause was decades of profligate spending by the state and the unsustainable way in which it was financed.

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