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'What a joke': Lebanese react to Prime Minister Najib Mikati's fourth term

'What a joke': Lebanese react to Prime Minister Najib Mikati's fourth term

Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati. (Credit: AFP)

BEIRUT — “Lebanon will not die,” Najib Mikati assured the Lebanese Thursday, addressing the country in a televised speech after he was voted as prime minister for the fourth time.

“What a joke,” said 26-year-old Yassine Habib, from South Lebanon, an unemployed business management graduate. “Empty phrases, and fake promises, that's all those politicians know how to say.”

A labor force survey from January showed that almost a third of Lebanon’s labor force is out of work, while the unemployment rate among the youth (15 to 24-year-olds) has reached 47.8 percent as Lebanon’s economic crisis continues to spiral out of control.

Habib will be leaving for Nigeria next month to work as an accountant for a Lebanese company there.

“I’m leaving the only home I’ve ever known to make $600 a month, working nine hours a day, and some billionaire gets on TV and gives a populist statement,” Habib said.

Nineteen-year-old Ramiya Haddad, from Batroun, had dropped out of university in 2021 and has been working as a cashier in a bakery to help sustain her parents and younger brother, who is still in high school.

“Well, why do I already feel dead then?” Haddad told L’Orient Today in response to Mikati’s words of hope.

During the protests that erupted in 2019, protesters routinely held sit-ins in front of Mikati’s house, accusing him of amassing wealth while residents of his city slipped further into poverty. Mikati and his brother co-founded the M1 Group, a Lebanon-based holding company that has built the two a fortune of nearly $3 billion each, according to Forbes.

A middle aged man from Tripoli who spoke to L’Orient Today on the condition of anonymity said that he felt “disgusted that a billionaire has been elected as prime minister, while Tripoli (the area he hails from) continues to be one of the most forgotten areas in the country.”

Others seemed hopeful that a prime minister has been elected, considering it a step in the right direction.

“Any prime minister would do right now,” said 45-year-old Hussein Mohammed from Baalbeck. “Lebanon needs a government for the International Monetary Fund negotiations to prosper into something tangible,” he added.

Mikati’s caretaker government had reached a preliminary agreement with the IMF on April 7, whereby Lebanon would receive $3 billion over 46 months if certain prior reforms are implemented — however, progress on those reforms has been slow.

The staff-level agreement remains subject to final approval by the executive board of the IMF.

“Call it naivety,” Ammar Tarhini, 29-year-old from Beirut told L’Orient Today. “But I think the new cabinet that Mikati will form is under the international spotlight, so they are bound to actively work for reforms.”

As for another segment of the Lebanese, the election of a new prime minister did not spark any emotions.

“I wasn’t born yesterday,” said 60-year-old Kareem Kanso from the South. “I know that the election of one prime minister wouldn’t have a drastic effect on a country as complex as ours.”

Kanso insisted that the “salvation of this country does not depend on one person, or even the government on its own.”

Lina Hallak, a 40-year-old mother of three, didn’t even know that a new PM had been elected.

“I don’t watch the news, it’s all lies anyways,” she said with a laugh.

For 30-year-old Hassan Hasbini from Hasbaya, “It doesn’t really matter anymore.” As an electrical engineer with more than five years of field experience, he has secured a job in Qatar and will be leaving tomorrow.

“I’ve taken a vow upon myself to no longer follow up on what happens here,” he said.


BEIRUT — “Lebanon will not die,” Najib Mikati assured the Lebanese Thursday, addressing the country in a televised speech after he was voted as prime minister for the fourth time. “What a joke,” said 26-year-old Yassine Habib, from South Lebanon, an unemployed business management graduate. “Empty phrases, and fake promises, that's all those politicians know how to say.”A labor...