The line-up of Prime Minister Saad Hariri's new government was announced on Thursday, following around nine months of strenuous negotiations that involved several obstacles.
Hariri presented the line-up to President Michel Aoun after Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea accepted to cede the culture portfolio to Speaker Nabih Berri and a long-running obstacle over the representation of the Hizbullah-backed Consultative Gathering was resolved.
Below is the cabinet's line-up as recited by Council of Ministers Secretary General Fouad Fleifel:
- Prime Minister: Saad Hariri (al-Mustaqbal Movement)
- Deputy PM: Ghassan Hasbani (Lebanese Forces)
- Foreign Affairs: Jebran Bassil (Free Patriotic Movement / President Aoun)
- Defense: Elias Bou Saab (FPM / Aoun)
- Justice: Albert Serhan (FPM / Aoun)
- Economy: Mansour Bteish (FPM / Aoun)
- Energy: Nada al-Bustani (FPM / Aoun)
- Environment: Fadi Jreissati (FPM / Aoun)
- Presidency Affairs: Salim Jreissati (FPM / Aoun)
- Displaced: Ghassan Atallah (FPM / Aoun)
- State Minister for Foreign Trade Affairs: Hassan Mrad (Consultative Gathering / Aoun)
- Tourism: Avedis Guidanian (Tashnag Party)
- State Minister for Refugee Affairs: Saleh al-Gharib (Lebanese Democratic Party)
- Health Minister: Jamil Jabaq (Hizbullah)
- Sport and Youth: Mohammed Fneish (Hizbullah)
- State Minister for Parliament Affairs: Mahmoud Qmati (Hizbullah)
- Education: Akram Shehayyeb (Progressive Socialist Party)
- Industry: Wael Abu Faour (PSP)
- State Minister for Information Technology Affairs: Adel al-Afiouni (Miqati's bloc)
- Interior: Raya al-Hassan (Mustaqbal)
- Public Works: Youssef Fenianos (Marada Movement)
- Labor: Camille Abu Suleiman (Lebanese Forces)
- State Minister for Administrative Development: May Chidiac (LF)
- Finance: Ali Hassan Khalil (AMAL Movement)
- Culture: Mohammed Daoud (AMAL)
- Telecommunications: Mohammed Shuqeir (Mustaqbal)
- Social Affairs: Richard Kouyoumjian (LF)
- Agriculture: Hassan al-Laqqis (AMAL)
- Information: Jamal al-Jarrah (Mustaqbal)
- State Minister for Social and Economic Rehabilitation of Youth and Women: Violet Khairallah Safadi (Mustaqbal)
- State Minister for Administrative Development Affairs: May Chidiac (LF)
Addressing the Lebanese after the line-up's announcement, Hariri apologized to citizens over the delay and noted that the country is facing “economic, financial and service-related challenges in addition to the Israeli threats.”
“I'm counting on everyone's cooperation,” he added.
“Cooperation is a must so that we rise to the level of the challenges in order to overcome this period,” Hariri went on to say, stressing that “the solution lies in bold reforms, not in nagging or populist speeches.”
Hariri also revealed that a session to draft the ministerial policy statement will be held at noon Saturday.
The issue of representing the Hizbullah-backed Consultative Gathering, a grouping of six Sunni MPs, had delayed the formation of the government for the past four months. Previous disagreements over Christian and Druze representation had also hindered the formation process before being eventually resolved.
Late Thursday, fireworks resounded in the Lebanese capital.
A new government will be able to unlock billions of dollars in aid pledged at a conference in April, notably to help boost the country's ailing infrastructure.
In 2009, it took Hariri five months to form a government, while his successor Tammam Salam took a whole ten months after he was nominated in 2013.
After its formation, the new government now has 30 days to draw up a ministerial declaration to outline its priorities before it starts working.
This too could prove to be difficult, in view of internal divisions.
Contentious issues include Lebanon's relations with Syria's Assad, the future of around one million Syrian refugees in a country of 4.5 million, and Hizbullah's weapons arsenal.
Analysts says the new cabinet's main challenge will be the economy.
Lebanon's service-oriented economy had looked on the brink of collapse for some time, but a Paris conference dubbed CEDRE in April made aid pledges worth $11 billion.
It is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of gross domestic product in 2018, according to Moody's Investors Service.
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