BEIRUT — Disagreement regarding the recent decision by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to postpone implementing daylight saving time until the end of April instead of enacting it overnight from March 25 to March 26 as planned is deepening in Lebanon, as many politicians, officials and residents voiced their opposition Sunday to this controversial decision.
Some describe Mikati's decision as sectarian, saying it was made because of the impact it would have on the country's Muslim population during the month of Ramadan, during which many worshippers fast from sunrise to sunset. Others contend that the decision is an attempt to distract public discussion from the current crises in Lebanon.
Mikati's decision is 'illegal'
The decision to postpone daylight saving time in Lebanon for a month is illegal, caretaker Justice Minister Henri Khoury said in a statement Saturday evening.
“This decision is contrary to the cabinet decision issued on Aug. 20, 1998, and is therefore issued by an invalid authority and is illegal,” the statement explained.
The decision was adopted almost unilaterally following a discussion between caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri. The Grand Serail announced Thursday that the change to daylight saving time, scheduled for midnight March 25/26, would be postponed until the end of April.
تأجيل العمل بالتوقيت الصيفي .. #بري طلب و #ميقاتي استجاب pic.twitter.com/UwKzv5fKcz— Al Jadeed News (@ALJADEEDNEWS) March 23, 2023
“This decision caused confusion in Lebanese society, and caused disturbances and divisions at the level of the supreme religious references and the private media and educational institutions, all of which declared openly that they would not abide by the decision, and it also violated the global time in force for decades, which will cause many problems for all Lebanese companies and huge financial burdens,” Khoury's statement said.
Schools ‘have shifted to daylight saving time’
In a decision contradicting that of Mikati's, schools in Lebanon have shifted to daylight saving time, caretaker Education Minister Abbas Halabi said in a statement Sunday.
Halabi justified schools sticking with daylight saving time by saying, “If the cabinet convenes and takes a decision amending its previous decision related to daylight saving time, we will be the first to apply it. In the absence of such a decision, daylight saving time remains approved and applied in the educational sector.”
Time change ‘has nothing to do with Ramadan or Easter’
Lebanese Forces (LF) leader Samir Geagea also said on Sunday that the problem surrounding the postponement of the switch to daylight saving time "has nothing to do with Ramadan or Easter, nor with any other religious consideration," but is a matter of "public order and the application of the constitution and the law."
For his part, the head of the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM) Gebran Bassil ironically said on Sunday that “they want a president who sets back the country's time, rather than moving towards the time of reform. I say to them: the time has come, even if you bring it backwards!"
Priority for IMF reforms
The government should be working on the reforms required by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) rather than concerning itself with postponing or implementing daylight savings time, Walid Joumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Party (PSP), said in a tweet Sunday.
“The country’s crisis is greater than advancing or delaying the clock, and there is no need to take decisions that pour into the hateful sectarian furnace. Let this government and this council return to translating the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund as they are,” Joumblatt said in his tweet. "Enough bargaining with the port and the airport and other issues," he added.
Also Thursday, the IMF's mission chief in Beirut said that Lebanon is in a very dangerous situation, one year after the country committed to reforms it has so far failed to implement.
The IMF urged the Lebanese government to halt borrowing from the central bank. IMF mission chief Ernesto Rigo said at a news conference in Beirut that the authorities should accelerate the implementation of conditions set for a $3 billion bailout from the fund. "One would have expected more in terms of implementation and approval of legislation" related to reforms, he said, noting "very slow" progress. "Lebanon is in a very dangerous situation," he added, in unusually frank remarks.
Former Minister Michel Pharaon also tweeted on Sunday that "the [daylight savings] hour is not sectarian, but global. Lebanon cannot be separated from its history and surroundings.”
Confusion at Beirut airport
The government's confusing decision also impacted Beirut international airport. A video circulating on social media platforms shows a sign at the Beirut international airport displaying daylight saving time on one side, while on the other it shows winter time.
الخروج من المطار ع التوقيت الصيفي..— Marwan Matni ?? (@marwanmatni) March 26, 2023
اما الدخول اليه على التوقيت الشتوي ?#لبنان pic.twitter.com/XiceaaOyy8
Middle East Airlines said Thursday that it would push forward the departure times of all departing aircraft by one hour, starting from midnight 25-26 March until midnight 20-21 April 2023.
On Saturday, several media outlets, L'Orient Today and L'Orient-Le Jour included, archdioceses and schools said that they will not abide by the decision to postpone the transition to daylight saving time. Some media outlets said in a statement that they decided to go ahead with the change to summer time "to protest the decision of the [caretaker] prime minister."
BEIRUT — Disagreement regarding the recent decision by caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati to postpone implementing daylight saving time until the end of April instead of enacting it overnight from March 25 to March 26 as planned is deepening in Lebanon, as many politicians, officials and residents voiced their opposition Sunday to this controversial decision.Some describe Mikati's decision...