Terry Crews, center, poses with members of the female Lebanese dance troupe Mayyas after winning “America’s Got Talent,” on Sept. 14, 2022. (NBC via AP)
- Victory offers brief respite as economists warn 2022 budget may fall short of IMF bailout program requirements
BEIRUT: The news of a Lebanese dance group winning the TV competition show “America’s Got Talent” sparked joy on Thursday across the country.
Mayyas, an all-female dance troupe, dazzled the show’s judges and audience on the competition’s 17th season before winning $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the crew’s choreographer, Nadim Cherfan, who is still in the US with his group, and congratulated him on the achievement.
He informed him of his decision to award the team the Lebanese Order of Merit.
The dancers adopted the slogan “For You Lebanon” during qualification stages, where it competed against 10 other contenders.
The excitement was felt across social media, which was flooded with congratulatory posts.
Twitter users hailed the achievement as a glimmer of hope amid Lebanon’s crises, saying the group represents the country’s pride.
Diplomatic congratulations also poured in.
The EU mission in Lebanon said in a tweet that “Mayyas is a source of pride and inspiration.”
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Walid Bukhari tweeted: “The Mayyas crew that impressed the world showed us an image of Lebanon that we like — a rare bird that will remain the jewel of the Arab world.”
Although the Lebanese state did not cover the group’s travel costs, which were eventually paid by the dancers’ families and accompanying members, politicians too rushed to congratulate the crew.
Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “Lebanese creativity shines through this dazzling performance by the Mayyas group.”
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said that the crew “stemmed from the darkness and failure witnessed by Lebanon due to its leaders, proving that Lebanon is full of talents and creativity and that it only needs to follow the right path of fair competition based on competency, integrity and perseverance.”
The Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that it shares the happiness of Lebanese expatriates residing in the US, who voted for and supported the team.
The culture minister, Mohammed Wissam Mortada, also offered congratulations, as did the Ministry of Tourism, as well as a number of MPs and economic figures.
The Lebanese Army Command tweeted that the crew “carried the message of Lebanon — a bright country full of life — to the world.”
This success, achieved by a young Lebanese group, sharply juxtaposes with the country’s broader malaise caused by older politicians.
Their failure to find effective solutions to rescue Lebanon from its economic woes was reflected in the ongoing discussions over the 2022 draft budget, the approval of which has been delayed for nine months.
The discussions in Parliament started on Thursday and are expected to last for two days.
Lebanon’s 2022 budget may fall short of International Monetary Fund requirements for a bailout program, a member of Lebanon’s negotiations team told Reuters on Thursday.
Economy Minister Amin Salam said he was concerned that the IMF could not be satisfied with the numbers in the budget, as it ignored the rights of depositors and employees and their security funds, according to other economic experts.
It also ignored the recovery of stolen and smuggled money and the importance of continuing criminal investigations into cases of illicit enrichment.
The IMF said that a staff mission will visit Lebanon to discuss ways to “speed up” implementation of agreed reforms required for the loan program.
A financial expert said: “If the budget is approved by imposing additional taxes and fees before the recovery plan matures scientifically and realistically, it will overwhelm citizens following the lifting of subsidies on commodities and the erosion of their salaries.”
MP Ibrahim Kanaan, chair of the finance and budget committee, affirmed during the budget discussion session that the budget lacked an economic and social vision amid high unemployment, low growth rates and low allocations for investment expenditures.
Kanaan pointed out that the scenarios set by the Ministry of Finance to fix the dollar exchange rates between 12,000 Lebanese pounds, 16,000 Lebanese pounds and 20,000 Lebanese pounds will not secure the needed imports.
This creates an imbalance since the imports are not enough to cover the salaries and contributions allocated for salaries, social benefits and debt services, Kanaan added.