PM Najib Mikati tried to defuse the tension before heading to Belgium. He succeeded in doing so on a few levels, while certain landmines are still in the way and at risk of exploding.
Although the landmine of the bread loaf was defused, citizens will be left holding the, slightly lighter, bag. The price of a standard bag of bread, currently 1,500 LBP, remains unchanged; however its weight dropped from 1,000 grams to 900 grams. This means that the cabinet and bakeries have come out on top, while consumers are left one loaf short.
The landmine of the medical fee was also defused without the establishment of a mechanism. In fact, the cabinet decided to increase medical and hospital fees. How will hospitals take the news? Will they stand their ground and refuse to admit social security patients as of next Monday? The 8.9 trillion LBP decree will remain pending until the minister of finance forwards the final formula.
One issue that also remains unsettled is that of the land transportation unions’ strike scheduled for Thursday. A divergence in points of view was reported amongst different representatives of the transportation sector during last night’s meeting. In fact, some were clinging to the strike while others were asking to call it off.
Turning to the upcoming parliamentary elections, the cabinet also approved the voting of Lebanese expats however without setting the appropriate mechanism.
In conclusion, one may say that the cabinet tried to cool down the situation more than find radical solutions to the problems at hand.
In Syria, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe made a rather threatening statement calling May 5 a “moment of truth for the Syrian regime”. On May 5, International Envy Kofi Annan will present his report and if his mediation is considered as a failed attempt, France and its allies will push for a resolution in line with chapter 7.