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Lebanon’s Billionaire Prime Minister Can Only Buy Time

2 8 1
04.08.2021

Lebanon’s ruling elite designated billionaire Najib Mikati to be prime minister at a time when Lebanon’s masses have fallen under poverty. He comes from Tripoli, the poorest city in Lebanon, but owns a yacht, a stake in Pepe Jeans, a South African telecom firm, and prime real estate in New York and London. According to Forbes, Mikati is one of the richest men in Lebanon with an estimated worth of $2.7 billion.

But such wealth highlights the widening inequality, and political dysfunction, in a country where most people find it hard to imagine how they will ever again make ends meet. Nobody believes Mikati’s leadership is sustainable even in the medium term. It is Lebanon’s misfortune that its political class, and many of its international backers, believe he is worth supporting nevertheless.

Lebanon’s ruling elite designated billionaire Najib Mikati to be prime minister at a time when Lebanon’s masses have fallen under poverty. He comes from Tripoli, the poorest city in Lebanon, but owns a yacht, a stake in Pepe Jeans, a South African telecom firm, and prime real estate in New York and London. According to Forbes, Mikati is one of the richest men in Lebanon with an estimated worth of $2.7 billion.

But such wealth highlights the widening inequality, and political dysfunction, in a country where most people find it hard to imagine how they will ever again make ends meet. Nobody believes Mikati’s leadership is sustainable even in the medium term. It is Lebanon’s misfortune that its political class, and many of its international backers, believe he is worth supporting nevertheless.

Mikati is seen by most Lebanese, by contrast, as a symbol of an old and corrupt order. In October 2019, the month Lebanon erupted in protests, he was charged with corruption for illegally profiting from housing loans meant for lower-income groups, but the case was buried. Most insulting to the suffering of the Lebanese is the fact that Mikati has previously served as prime minister—and last did so when a ship laden with thousands of tons of ammonium nitrate first docked at Beirut’s port. He now returns to power a year after the unsafely stored explosive caught fire, exploded, and fatally damaged some of the most glorious parts of the city.

Is Mikati the man to extract Lebanon from its myriad crises? Activists say he........

© Foreign Policy


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