Long-awaited public appointments cast doubt over Lebanon’s ‘technocratic’ government

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Lebanon’s cabinet made 18 long-awaited financial appointments Wednesday, in a session dogged by allegations of sectarian power-sharing.

The cabinet agreed on four new vice-governors at the central bank, Banque du Liban: Wassim Mansouri, Salim Shaheen, Bashir Yaqan and Alexander Muradian.

The appointees represent four of Lebanon’s power-wielding sects: Sunni, Shi’a, Druze and Armenian-Catholic, respectively. Other appointments included Maya Dabbagh, Marwan Mikhael, Joseph Haddad, Kamel Wazni, Adel Idrik and Crystal Walid Hakim to the Banking Control Commission.

The appointments are long overdue.

The current vice governor terms expired a year ago, while the Banking Control Commission terms expired at the end of March.

In April the government postponed a session to make the same appointments after Sleiman Frangieh, head of the Marada movement, threatened to withdraw his party’s ministers from the government. Frangieh ordered his ministers to boycott the session again on Wednesday, but could not be reached for comment.

Despite Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s assertions that his government is “technocratic” and made up of “independent specialists,” the roster of candidates drew severe criticism in the build-up to Wednesday’s session.

“These appointments have come about based on [spoils] as usual… Unfortunately, sectarianism is still strong in Lebanon and it will take more than protests to make this regime fall,” protester Hady Azzeddine told Al Arabiya English.

Industry Minister Imad Hoballah was among the many high-profile critics of the list of names put forward for positions which include director-general of the Economy and Trade Ministry, governor of Beirut, head of the Civil Service Council, and director-general of investment at the Energy Ministry.

“Do these appointments resemble us?” Hoballah tweeted Wednesday morning.

After the session, he was quoted as saying: “I opposed [the appointments] based on the lack of a mechanism and transparency.”

Economist and political activist Jad Chaaban criticized the names being discussed by cabinet, which include several prominent bankers according to local media.

“The ‘independent technocratic government’ will appoint today… [a] banker from BankMed [as] head of Banking Control Commission, [two] bankers from BLOM & BBAC as BDL Vice governors, [a] banker from CEDRUS as Government Commissioner at [Banque du Liban]!!” he tweeted.

Chaaban’s tweet drew angry reactions, with many pointing out conflicts of interest and alleged sectarian allegiances of banks.

“Cedrus is the Aounist' representative. BankMed is the Future representative. Probably the BLOM and BBAC are representing two of the other groups of the political class. Amazing. How many people said people should give Diab government a chance. Well I think the results are in,” replied one Twitter user.

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