Lebanon (MNN) – Last week, Lebanon formed a new government. That’s good news.
Since October, the volume with which people voiced their anger over the economic crisis only increased. Although mostly peaceful, it quickly morphed into an anti-corruption call, which turned into a demand for top officers to step down. In answer, Prime Minister Saad Hariri resigned three months ago, taking the Cabinet with him and remaining only as a caretaker. Top officials President Michel Aoun and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri remained in place.
Reviving the economy
Protestors demanded a new government and a new approach to turning the economic crisis around. It would seem that for the new prime minister, Hassan Diab’s appointment, the first job at hand is to get his position confirmed. Then the REAL work begins.
Heart For Lebanon’s Tom Atema explains, “What happens next is approval process from the Parliament. That will take about two weeks to confirm everything and make sure that happens. This new government was formed after Hezbollah and its allies clinched a deal with the Cabinet for the country to tackle some of its worst economic problems that they have had in history.”
For the former education minister and university professor, it’s a lot to handle. “His first big issue is to solve the economic crisis. That is huge,” Atema says. Tackling it will take a vote of confidence and an infusion of cash from the Arab bloc. “If they will do that at very low-interest rates or no interest, then they will not have to go through years of austerity as Greece did. But if they don’t, or don’t give them that much, or have high interest rates or high restrictions, it is very possible that it could be years (for recovery). ”
Deepening crisis in Lebanon
Since October, economists estimate an annual rise in inflation of almost 30%. “Everything in Lebanon is extremely expensive at the moment,” he says. A no or low-interest bailout would be timely. “That might take some of the pressure off of that the extreme price hikes that we’ve seen in the last two or three months.”
Yet the announcement of a new government came at the same time police used water cannons to disperse protestors away from the Parliament building. To outsiders, it seems like the new government failed to appease them at all. To a degree, Atema concurs. “There’s no give and take. There’s no negotiation, there’s no ‘that’s better than what we had. So let’s take it from here and build on it’. It seems to me it’s an all or nothing protest group.”
Moreover, Diab’s rise to power met with a lukewarm response. Prior to his appointment, he was an unknown. People are suspicious of working with a coalition dominated by Iranian ally Hezbollah and its Christian allies. “There’s a whole lot of unknowns, which means there needs to be a whole lot of praying for the new government in place. The protesters don’t like this new Cabinet or the new prime minister. They feel very strongly at this point in time that it’s just more of the same, and there’s nothing really good that’s going to come out of it.”
At a crossroads
Since nothing will change overnight, Atema says the ministry team adjusted some of their goals and schedules. However, he’s quick to add that, “We’ve been operating very under some new conditions because of the finances because there are new laws in place that you have to abide by. So it does change your methodology a little bit, but the overall mission of Heart for Lebanon hasn’t skipped a beat.”
In everything they do, Heart for Lebanon wants to make disciples of Jesus. That manifests in the refugee food programs, the education programs, their spiritual formation, and relational engagement ministries.
To that end, Atema invites others to join him as Heart For Lebanon prays through this predicament. “We pray for wisdom. We pray for unity so we can reach many, and I’m talking about unity within our staff and within the faith-based community in Lebanon.”
(Headline photo courtesy of twitter@hassan b. diab)