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  • Bank Muamalat seeks to fix itself with Rp 3.2t investment

    first_imgThe pioneer of sharia banking in Indonesia, Bank Muamalat, is gearing up to fix its business performance with Rp 3.2 trillion (US$223 million) invested by a consortium initiated by Ilham Akbar Habibie, son of the late former president B. J. Habibie.The bank’s president director, Achmad K. Permana, said on Wednesday that under the consortium led by Al Falah, Bank Muamalat would get around Rp 3.2 trillion in fresh capital from a rights issue. Al Falah is a Singapore-based sharia investment company led by Ilham Habibie in partnership with CP5 Hold Co 2 Limited, fully managed by SSG Capital Management Limited.“The investment amount is greater than the initial estimate of Rp 2 trillion,” he said on the sidelines of a press briefing. The company was also open to other investors, and the amount of capital could be higher, Achmad added. “I will assess the problem and find solutions, either with warnings, negotiations or legal means,” Yusril told the press, while also expressing hope that all problems regarding clients’ NPF could be resolved in the next two years.OJK chairman Wimboh Santoso said on Tuesday that the authority had approved the consortium’s acquisition of the bank after completing some administrative work. When asked about the approval, Ilham told the press that he could not provide any details, adding that the process could take two months or more.According to OJK data, Bank Muamalat’s net profit fell to Rp 6.57 billion in the period of January to August 2019, down 94 percent from the same period of 2018.Bank Muamalat is one of five financial service providers under scrutiny by the House of Representatives’ Commission XI, which oversees financial affairs. The Commission in January formed a working committee to monitor Bank Muamalat as well as state insurers Asuransi Jiwasraya, Asabri and Asuransi Jiwa Bersama (AJB) Bumiputera. It will also look into financial problems at state-owned pension insurance firm Taspen.Topics : Pending approval from the Financial Services Authority (OJK), the investment would see the Al Falah-led consortium control 77 percent of Bank Muamalat. The stakes of existing shareholders, which include the Islamic Development Bank, Bank Boubyan and Atwill Holdings Limited, will be diluted.Muamalat is weighed down with bad assets as nonperforming financing (NPF) soared to 4.64 percent in last year’s third quarter, nearing the unhealthy level of 5 percent. Bad loans surged over the course of a year, as the NPF stood at 2.5 percent in the third quarter of 2018.“We will change our business model to focus more on retail,” Ahmad said, adding that Bank Muamlat’s business so far had been mostly in the corporate segment, which accounted for 65 percent of the lender’s financing.Numerous mergers and acquisitions marked Indonesia’s banking industry in 2019, despite loan growth declining to levels unseen in more than three years amid global economic uncertainty. Investors see potential in the market size and high profit margins in Southeast Asia’s largest economy.Legal expert Yusril Ihza Mahendra, who headed the legal team of the Joko “Jokowi” Widodo-Ma’ruf Amin election campaign, has been onboarded to help the bank manage its NPF.last_img read more

  • Coronavirus survivor recounts fear, confusion

    first_imgBut he knew he had to get away from his friend’s young child and elderly parents, to protect them.By then, Wuhan and other parts of Hubei had been placed under a quarantine that blocked millions of people from travelling.Unable to return to his parents’ home in a different township, Xiao checked into a nearby hotel, where his long ordeal began. ‘Mutant’Xiao became the subject of vicious rumors in his friend’s township.”That I had mutated, that I had already been cremated, that my friend had invited me deliberately to infect their town, or that my parents worked at the Huanan seafood market — many different versions,” Xiao said, referring to the Wuhan market where the virus is believed to have originated.”I was under the greatest psychological pressure when I was diagnosed… I felt sorry for my friend.”Xiao was finally discharged on Wednesday, and transferred to a quarantine location provided by the government.He plans to donate blood plasma for an experimental treatment using cells from coronavirus survivors.He also wants to quit his job at a media company in Chengdu and settle down in his home province once the outbreak ends, to be closer to family.”I no longer want to keep drifting out there,” he said. Topics : Xiao Yao doesn’t know when or where he caught the new coronavirus.He suspects it happened on his train journey home to celebrate the Lunar New Year in Jingzhou city, in central China’s Hubei province.The 27-year-old, who works in the southwest city of Chengdu, only realized something was amiss as the clock ticked midnight into the year of the rat on Jan. 25.center_img “I suddenly began to feel that my body was very warm, and I began to panic,” he told AFP.Xiao, who was at a friend’s house in Jingzhou at the time, wasn’t sure what to do.He had heard horror stories about the virus spreading through the country from friends at the epicenter of the outbreak in nearby Wuhan.”The feeling I got was that you shouldn’t go to the hospital — you will fall ill if you aren’t already ill,” he said. Makeshift hospitalXiao spent nearly a week alone at the hotel with only instant noodles to eat because nearby stores were all closed.He took fever medication and consulted an online doctor, who said he could have an upper respiratory tract infection.”I was so flustered. I thought about whether to call the police for help from the government,” Xiao said, but decided against it as he wasn’t sure if he had the COVID-19 illness.At night, he began to believe he was hallucinating a flying object in his room.One morning, he realized a bat had entered the room — the animal scientists believe was probably the source of the virus that has now killed more than 2,200 people and infected 75,000 across China.The government eventually shut down the hotel and Xiao had to return to his friend’s house.By then, he had developed a serious cough. His friend was also running a temperature, so they decided to head to a makeshift hospital converted from a factory.There he was treated with an assortment of intravenous drips, antiviral drugs and traditional Chinese medicine.On Feb. 4, Xiao finally received confirmation of what he had long feared — he was infected with the coronavirus.Conditions at the makeshift hospital were basic.Xiao initially had his own room, but got a “roommate” as the hospital became more crowded.”I didn’t bathe for more than 20 days,” he said.”I didn’t even have towels.””There was a smell of disinfectant on the food that made me nauseous,” he said.”But then I think about my friends in Wuhan, all of them struggling to get a hospital bed, and I can’t complain any more,” Xiao said.last_img read more

  • Boeing extends factory shutdown in Washington state

    first_imgBoeing has said it will indefinitely extend a shutdown at its factories in Washington state because of the coronavirus pandemic.The aerospace giant had already halted production at its Puget Sound facility near Seattle, where the company builds the long-range 777 jet and other models, after announcing a two-week stoppage last month. It had also shut its other major state factory at Moses Lake because of the 737 MAX grounding. Boeing announced Sunday that the shutdown would continue indefinitely in an effort to protect staff from COVID-19, which has already claimed the life of one employee at the company’s Everett facility.”The health and safety of our employees, their families and our communities is our shared priority,” Boeing’s commercial airplanes division president Stan Deal said in a statement.Boeing was already facing significant headwinds prior to the coronavirus pandemic because of the crisis surrounding the 737 MAX, which has been grounded for more than a year following two fatal crashes.But the pandemic has further hit the company’s outlook with most commercial airline travel suspended and major carriers thrust into a life-or-death fight.The company is seeking more than $60 billion in federal support for the US aerospace industry in the wake of the two crises.It announced a voluntary worker layoff plan on Thursday and said it expected “several thousand employees” to take a severance package or retire.Boeing currently employs around 70,000 people in Washington state.Topics :last_img read more

  • Pilots in Pakistan air crash distracted by coronavirus worry, minister says

    first_imgTopics : The flight data recorder showed the landing gear was lowered at 10 nautical miles, Khan said, but then raised again 5 nautical miles from the runway, which he described as “beyond comprehension”.The aircraft was “100 percent fit to fly” and there was no technical fault, he said, but added that the pilots were not “focused” because of the pandemic.”The discussion throughout was about corona,” Khan said, referring to exchanges between the pilot and co-pilot he said he had listened to on the cockpit voice recorder.”Corona was dominant over their mind. Their family was affected [by the virus].” The pilots of a Pakistan airliner that crashed last month, killing 97, were distracted and preoccupied as they talked about the coronavirus pandemic while preparing for an initial failed landing bid, the country’s aviation minister said on Wednesday.The Airbus A320 of national carrier Pakistan International Airlines crashed on May 22 in the southern city of Karachi, killing all but two of those aboard as it came down a kilometer short of the runway on its second attempt.The aircraft had landed on its engines on the first attempt, before taking off again, the minister, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, told parliament as he presented an initial report on the disaster.center_img The report, reviewed by Reuters, did not spell out the pilots’ conversation on the virus, but said they did not follow set protocols.”Several warnings and alerts such as over-speed, landing gear not down and ground proximity alerts, were disregarded,” it added. “The landing was undertaken with landing gear retracted. The aircraft touched the runway surface on its engines.”Both the pilots and officials at air traffic control did not follow set procedures, Khan said.”The captain and the co-pilot were experienced and medically fit,” the minister said.Khan added that the data showed flight PK8303 from the eastern city of Lahore was at an altitude of just 2,200 m when 16 km from the runway, although it should have been at 762 m.Air traffic control drew the pilot’s attention to the irregularity, and advised against landing, instead urging a go-around, Khan said.”When they were in landing position, they were warned by the controllers, but he said, ‘I’ll manage’… and then they started discussing corona again.”He said the inquiry report revealed the pilot had mentioned no technical fault during the final approach.”The last words from the pilot were, ‘Oh God, oh God, oh God,'” Khan added.Pakistan has recorded 188,926 infections and 3,755 deaths in the virus pandemic, with a big spike in reported cases over the last month.last_img read more

  • France’s Macron picks new PM after election rout

    first_img“Let’s be clear: I’m not here to seek the limelight. I’m here to get results,” Castex said in what was effectively his introduction to the general public during a prime-time interview on TF1.He said he would present his political road map next week, and a wider cabinet overhaul is expected in the coming days. Macron has promised a “new course” for France to deal with the crisis, which has plunged France into its worst recession since World War II and left millions of people facing unemployment.The former investment banker, who swept to power in 2017 on pledges to radically reform France, already has a wary eye on his 2022 re-election bid after months of protests and strikes that preceded the coronavirus outbreak. Speculation that Philippe was on the way out mounted this week after Macron’s centrists were routed in municipal elections last Sunday, which saw the Greens take control of several major cities.Philippe, a popular right-wing politician who never joined Macron’s Republic on the Move party, nonetheless easily won his bid to be mayor of Le Havre.His approval ratings have surged over his handling of the coronavirus crisis, while those of Macron, who has pursued ambitious economic reforms since coming to office in 2017, have fallen.While many analysts thought Macron would tack left or look farther afield for his new prime minister, Castex is a pure product of the French administrative elite, having attended the same ENA managerial university as Macron and Philippe.”We might have expected a political shift, but this is a technocrat,” Christian Jacob, head of the Republicans, told AFP, indicating that Castex would be cast out of the party.His nomination comes after Philippe has pushed through a series of Macron’s controversial overhauls that sparked massive strikes as well as the fierce “yellow vest” anti-government revolt.Sources close to Philippe told AFP on Friday that he would help Macron “consolidate” his majority in parliament, after an embarrassing series of defections in recent weeks by lawmakers unhappy with the president’s policies.Press reports had suggested that Macron might keep Philippe after all, not least after he praised his work as “remarkable” in an interview with regional newspapers published Thursday.Nonetheless, “we have to chart a new course” with “a new team,” Macron said.Other top ministers could also be on the way out, but analysts noted that Macron has a thin bench of potential replacements, not least because his young party has failed to produce any standouts from its parliamentary ranks.Under particular pressure is interior minister Christophe Castaner, who has been assailed by critics over the failure to contain the rioting and looting that marred the “yellow vest” protests of 2018-2019.More recently, Castaner has drawn the ire of police who say he has failed to support them against renewed claims of violence and racism in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.Since the start of Macron’s presidency, a total of 17 ministers have quit the government, most recently Agnes Buzyn, who stepped down as health minister in a doomed bid to wrest the Paris mayor job from Socialist Anne Hidalgo.Topics : French President Emmanuel Macron on Friday tapped a senior but low-profile bureaucrat as prime minister to replace Edouard Philippe, the first move in a widely expected cabinet reshuffle after dismal local election showings for the ruling party.The new premier, Jean Castex, was drawn from the right-wing opposition to Macron’s centrist party, and was totally unknown to most in France until now.But Castex, a former top aide to ex-president Nicolas Sarkozy, has been in charge of the country’s progressive emergence from the coronavirus lockdown, a policy greeted as a relative success by experts.last_img read more

  • Jakarta still struggles with virus despite improved health facilities

    first_imgThe emergence of new COVID-19 cases in Jakarta, the first national epicenter of the outbreak, is showing no signs of slowing down despite claims that the capital was far more prepared for the disease thanks to improvements in its healthcare system.Jakarta now has 67 referral hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients, with a total capacity of 4,555 beds and 659 intensive care (ICU) rooms, according to the city’s health agency.It has come a long way from having only eight referral hospitals with 904 beds and 80 ICUs in March when the first two cases were officially announced in Indonesia. In the early days of the epidemic, hospitals were operating beyond their capacity and patients had to wait for hours to receive treatment; many were even rejected.Jakarta Governor Anies Baswedan has said that in March and April, the city would not have been able to treat 6,000 patients at the same time — considered the worst-case scenario — because it did not have an “adequate system”.But the capital has made notable improvements in its healthcare system, having sped up the referral process and monitoring of medical workers and inventory.“[The improvements] helped speed up treatment for patients and ensured that everyone coming into our health facilities would get fast and proper treatment without a long wait,” Anies told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview. One innovation that helped with the improvement is the information dashboard on, which integrates data from the 67 referral hospitals, said Sulung Mulia Putra, head of referral health services at the Jakarta Health Agency.The monitoring system, accessible only to health agency officials and hospitals, has improved the monitoring of COVID-19 patients, medical workers and availability of personal protective equipment in hospitals, he said.The improved system was not without flaws when it was launched in April, he added, largely because of hospitals’ limited capacity.“Patient inflow was exceptionally high [at the time].”But the system’s effects on hospitals were increasingly seen.Dian Ekowati, president director of city-owned Tarakan Hospital in Central Jakarta, said the system helped the hospital quickly refer patients to other facilities when it had yet to install a dedicated operating room for COVID-19 patients.And while the idea of integrating hospital data had been around for the past few years, it was only after COVID-19 hit the country that hospitals became more disciplined in reporting or sharing their information, said Mohammad Syahril, president director of the Sulianti Saroso Infectious Diseases Hospital in North Jakarta.He said it used to be common to refer patients to other hospitals without first informing the destination facility, which would delay treatment.“They were either full or didn’t have the [necessary] equipment, so patients would have to be referred to other hospitals.”But with the onset of the outbreak, there was no more room for delays as officials worked to quickly suppress death rates.Jakarta has officially recorded 658 COVID-19 deaths, but the probable number of total deaths reached 2,152 on Monday, according to data from city health agency and hospitals have started evaluating existing referral systems, namely the Referral Integrated System (Sisrute) and the Integrated Emergency Management System (SPGDT) that was developed by the Health Ministry, Syahril said.With these platforms, hospitals must first submit information on the patient as well as a reason for their referral to other facilities. Then, they wait, he said.But now, hospitals regularly update data on patients, human resources and the availability of medical equipment through the ministry’s RS Online app.The city’s COVID-19 dashboard has been integrated with RS Online, said Sulung from the Jakarta Health Agency.The Indonesian Hospital Association’s (PERSI) Jakarta chapter chairman, Koesmedi Priharto, warned against complacency now that the city was forging “new norms” rather than ushering in a “new normal”.He said COVID-19 still left so much to be learned, while standard operating procedures for the treatment of the disease continued to evolve.As one solution, Koesmedi urged the Jakarta administration to start mapping hospitals for COVID-19 patients and those for patients seeking other forms of treatment, so that the latter would not be worried about seeking medical attention.“Prepare hospitals for non-COVID-19 patients, because they’ll have to carry out triage [and emergency assessment for sorting patients] upfront,” he said.“If patients have COVID-19 symptoms, then the hospital must refer them to the [appropriate facility]. In this case, preparing a referral system becomes very important.”Sulung said his agency did not rule out the possibility of improving its existing monitoring system for hospitals under its authority, which includes facilities reserved for non-COVID-19 patients.Topics :last_img read more

  • Olympics must go ahead next year as symbol of overcoming COVID-19, Tokyo governor says

    first_imgTopics : Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, often floated as a future Japanese premier, said on Monday the Olympics must go ahead next year as a symbol of world unity in overcoming the novel coronavirus, even as her city grapples with stubborn spikes in cases.Japan has not seen an explosive coronavirus outbreak as suffered in some other places but a recent increase in cases in Tokyo, which accounts for more than a third of its more than 20,000 total, has fanned worries about a second wave of infections.The 2020 Olympics were scheduled to start this month but were postponed because of the coronavirus. Koike has pledged to win public support for the Games, although a media survey showed a majority think they should be cancelled or postponed again. “I want to host them as a symbol of the world coming together to overcome this tough situation and of strengthened bonds among humankind,” Koike told Reuters in an online interview.She declined to specify a deadline for deciding if the Games could go ahead.A media-savvy former television announcer who speaks English and Arabic, Koike is to many a paradox: a global thinker with a nationalist tinge; a political outsider who advanced with help from old-boy mentors, and a risk-taker who shied away from the big gamble of running for parliament in 2017 as head of her upstart “Party of Hope”.The party floundered after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called a snap election.center_img Instead, Koike stayed on as Tokyo governor and has won plaudits for her straight-talking handling of the COVID-19 outbreak in contrast to what critics called Abe’s clumsy response.She was re-elected by a landslide last week, reigniting talk she has a shot at becoming Japan’s first woman prime minister.On Monday, she sought to brush such speculation aside.”I’m happy that people have hopes for me but I received support for a second term as governor,” she said.”I want to protect the lives and health of the people of Tokyo by addressing the immediate issue of policies for the coronavirus. That is my greatest mission.”Political machine?Tokyo’s jump in COVID-19 cases comes as Abe’s government prepares to launch a campaign to promote domestic tourism, but that has raised concern about spreading the virus outside the capital.Koike said it was important both to contain the virus and revive the slumping economy.”At present, a tough situation continues but … by taking a proper response in Tokyo, I want to advance both the prevention of infections and social and economic activity,” she said.Tokyo accounts for about 20% of Japan’s economy.Koike, who clashed with Abe’s administration over the timing of a state of emergency, and over which businesses to target for shutdowns, said she wanted greater clarity on local governments’ authority during the crisis.A veteran member of parliament before defying Abe’s Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) to make her 2016 bid for governor, Koike also wants to make the metropolis a global financial center by luring foreign talent.Still, speculation persists that she could yet aim for Japan’s top job.She has already broken several glass ceilings: first female governor of Tokyo, Japan’s first female defense minister and the first woman to run for LDP president.But creating a new political machine to vault her to the top would be tough, political analysts said.”Does she have what it takes to be prime minister? Absolutely. But she doesn’t have the political machine that can make it happen,” said a source who has advised Koike for years.A return to the LDP fold would also face obstacles, given that mutual antagonism runs deep. last_img read more

  • China requires negative COVID-19 tests for arriving air passengers

    first_imgTopics : The announcement comes as countries struggle with testing capacity and speed. In parts of the United States, receipt of test results can take up to two weeks, while in some other countries, nucleic acid tests are reserved for people who have come in close contact with COVID-19 patients or who have symptoms of the potentially fatal disease.In the past month, CAAC has allowed more foreign airlines to resume services in China and add flights to the country as the economy recovers. Deutsche Lufthansa AG on Friday said it would double the number of flights to and from mainland China in coming weeks, and Air France KLM SA said it has received approval to add more China flights.A number of airlines have been suspended from operating China routes after more than five passengers tested positive for the coronavirus upon arrival.  Passengers of China-bound flights must provide negative COVID-19 test results before boarding, China’s aviation authority said on Tuesday, as the government looks to further reduce the risk of imported coronavirus cases amid increased international travel.Nucleic acid tests must be completed within five days of embarkation, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) said on its website. Tests should be conducted at facilities designated or recognized by Chinese embassies in host countries, it said.The embassies will carefully assess the testing capacity of host countries and formulate travel procedures when testing conditions are met, CAAC said.last_img read more

  • Jokowi not to appeal court ruling on KPU commissioner dismissal

    first_imgShe added that Jokowi would not appeal the ruling because the presidential decree on Evi’s dismissal was based on a ruling made by the Election Organization Ethics Council (DKPP). The council discharged Evi in March for allegedly falsifying the 2019 regional election results in West Kalimantan.”The substance of the issue lies on the DKPP’s ruling, not in the presidential decree,” Dini said.Read also: Court cancels Jokowi’s dismissal of KPU commissionerEvi filed a lawsuit with the PTUN in March against Jokowi’s decree. The court ruled in her favor in July, ordering the President to revoke the decree, rehabilitate Evi’s name and restore her position at the KPU. The PTUN judges cited “serious juridical defects” by the DKPP in the decision-making process for Evi’s dismissal, arguing that she had not been afforded her right of defense as the council had not questioned Evi prior to issuing the ruling.Responding to the President’s decision not to appeal, Evi said she was grateful, conveying her hope to return to her position at the KPU as soon as possible.“The restoration of my position at the KPU will help the commission in organizing the upcoming elections in 270 regions,” she told The Jakarta Post on Friday, referring to this year’s regional elections slated for Dec. 9.However, DKPP head Muhammad said Evi’s dismissal was still valid, even if Jokowi revoked the decree. He added that the 2017 Elections Law stipulated that all rulings made by the ethics council were final and legally binding.”Evi’s status will still follow our last decision,” Muhammad said on Friday. He added that the council would not have any discussion with the KPU regarding Evi’s status.Topics : President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo will not appeal a Jakarta State Administrative Court (PTUN) ruling that annuls his approval to the dismissal of General Elections Commission (KPU) commissioner Evi Novida Ginting Malik.Presidential expert staff member Dini Shanti Purwono said Jokowi respected the ruling and would follow up on it.“The President will issue another decree to revoke a decree stipulating Evi Novida’s dismissal as a KPU commissioner,” Dini said on Friday.last_img read more

  • Macron in Lebanon calls for speedy government formation

    first_imgTopics : He landed at the airport just hours after under-fire leaders on Monday designated a new prime minister, diplomat Mustapha Adib, to tackle the country’s deep political and economic crisis.Immediately after his nomination, Adib, 48, gave a televised speech acknowledging the “need to form a government in record time and to begin implementing reforms immediately”.He vowed to resume talks with the International Monetary Fund for assistance as Lebanon faces its worst economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war and has been left traumatized by the August 4 explosion. French President Emmanuel Macron called Monday for the swift formation of a crisis government in Lebanon following the designation of a new prime minister.Speaking upon his arrival at Beirut airport, Macron said a new line-up should be agreed upon “as soon as possible” to rescue the country, which is reeling from the deadly August 4 port explosion and the effects of an economic collapse.It is Macron’s second such visit to hammer home the need for an overhaul of Lebanon’s complex sectarian political system, since the monster blast that killed 188, injured thousands and laid waste to large parts of Beirut. ‘Man of the system’ Adib emerged as a consensus option Sunday and was named premier the next day in a presidency statement.The close aide to former prime minister Najib Mikati received backing from the country’s top political parties. Lebanon’s last government, headed by Hassan Diab, resigned after the massive explosion, which revived calls at home and abroad for a radical revamp of the state.The blast caused up to $4.6 billion worth of physical damage and a blow to economic activity of up to $3.5 billion, according to a World Bank assessment.Caused by a vast stockpile of ammonium nitrate that had languished at Beirut’s port for years, the blast was widely blamed on government incompetence and greed.Those who have taken to the streets in mass protests since last October against the entire political class had already rejected any name that might emerge from the parliamentary consultations.Adib now faces the daunting task of steering the state through one of the deepest crises of its troubled 100-year history.Despite promises of change, the process for forming a new government follows the same blueprint that has chronically mired Lebanon in political deadlock. Social media was flooded with posts questioning whether a government set up by Adib would be any more effective than Diab’s, which was formed in January but failed to lift the country out of crisis. Nadim Houry of the Arab Reform Initiative said Adib was “part of the professional advisors class that orbit around Lebanon’s oligarchs.””He is a man of the system,” he said. ‘I want your trust’ “I want your trust,” an AFP correspondent heard Adib tell a resident of the Gemmayzeh neighbourhood, badly hit by the port blast.Macron, who toured the same area on August 6, arrived in Lebanon Monday to check on progress as he returned for Lebanon’s centenary, expected to be a glum commemoration.French mandate authorities on September 1, 1920, proclaimed the creation of Greater Lebanon incorporating mainly Muslim former Ottoman regions.On the eve of the centenary, many citizens were planning to leave the country and asked whether Lebanon would live to be 101.The French president kicked off his two-day trip by calling on 85-year-old Fairuz, the Arab world’s last living singing legend and a rare symbol of national unity in the crisis-hit country.President Michel Aoun and his political ally, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, on Sunday both expressed willingness to change the way Lebanon is governed.The 85-year-old Aoun, a hate figure to Lebanon’s large protest camp which regards him as deaf to calls for change, even urged the proclamation of a secular state.Under Lebanon’s political system, the premier must be a Sunni, the presidency is reserved for a Maronite Christian and the post of parliamentary speaker goes to a Shiite.Speaker Nabih Berri, also reviled by demonstrators, followed suit on Monday by urging change to the country’s confessional political system, which he labeled “the cause of all ills”. Suspicion was rife that Lebanon’s long-serving political heavyweights were only paying lip service to reform ahead of Macron’s visit.”When the political class talks about the introduction of the civil state, it reminds me of the devil talking about virtue, it doesn’t make sense,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut.”There is a big difference between raising a slogan and really putting it to work.”Adib’s designation “will not usher in a new period in Lebanese history and I don’t think it will put Lebanon on the road of genuine political development”.The IMF in a statement Monday voiced “hope that a new government will be formed shortly with a mandate to implement the policies and reforms that Lebanon needs to address the current crisis.”last_img read more