BEIRUT — Lebanon will not switch to daylight saving time this weekend, the government announced on Thursday, instead postponing the change until April 21, in a last-minute decision that is bound to cause confusion and chaos in the crisis-hit country.
Lebanon usually adopts daylight saving time from the end of March till the end of October.
“The clock will be advanced forward by one hour starting from midnight on April 20-21, 2023, the start date of daylight saving time for this year as an exception,” the Cabinet announced in a statement.
The statement did not mention a reason behind the decision. But the delay coincides with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, during which the Muslim community fasts from sunrise to sunset. The delay means that the traditional evening meal to break the fast will come an hour earlier than expected.
The consequences of the decision on various sectors across the country remain unclear. Middle East Airlines, Lebanon’s national carrier, announced in a statement that all flights departing from Beirut will be pushed forward by an hour.
A cybersecurity expert told the Lebanese news outlet L’Orient Today that the Network Time Protocol (NTP) servers, which are in charge of synchronization of system clocks, must be notified to make sure electronic devices, including phones and laptops, do not switch automatically to summer timing.
Footage of a meeting between caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and parliament Speaker Nabih Berri was leaked, showing the two discussing the issue of postponing daylight saving time.
اتّخذ #نجيب_ميقاتي قراراً منفرداً بتأجيل اعتماد #التوقيت_الصيفي حتّى ليل 20-21 نيسان 2023، بدلاً من ليل 25-26 آذار، وذلك نزولاً عند رغبة #نبيه_برّي.— Megaphone (@megaphone_news) March 23, 2023
يأتي قرار ميقاتي ليعاكس ما قرّره الاجتماع الوزاري في 7 آذار الجاري، والذي اعتمد الإبقاء على التوقيتين الصيفيّ والشتوي، رغم تزامن… pic.twitter.com/7gUODRSsOH
“Instead of it being 7 o'clock, it will stay 6 o'clock from now until the end of Ramadan. At the end of Ramadan we'll turn back the clock,” Berri is heard saying.
“But I submitted this proposal and they told me they asked you and you refused,” Mikati responds, to which Berri repeatedly says no.
“It can't be done. There are flights and a world of problems,” Mikati says. Yet the decision was officially announced.
The Lebanese quickly took to social media to mock the move.
One user said that instead of worrying about time, Muslims are more concerned about making ends meet and putting food on the table as prices are skyrocketing.
Another joked in a tweet, “The [International Monetary Fund] IMF: time is running out. Berri & Mikati: we’ll change the time.”
The IMF: time is running out.— Claude El Khal (@claudeelkhal) March 23, 2023
Berri & Mikati: we’ll change the time.#التوقيت_الصيفي
Lebanon is on the verge of total economic, financial and social collapse amid the ruling political elite’s complete apathy to address the growing crises, while also being without a president.
The IMF warned on Thursday that the small Mediterranean country is in a “very dangerous situation,” and criticized the authorities’ slow progress in enacting much-needed reforms.
“The delays can only increase the cost on the Lebanese people; we urge the authorities to accelerate the process, and to start finally completing the necessary prior actions,” IMF mission chief Ernesto Rigo told reporters during a visit to Beirut.
Last year, Lebanon secured a draft staff-level agreement from the IMF to provide the cash-strapped country with around $3 billion in aid. But the financial institution has repeatedly blasted the authorities’ failure to advance the required reforms in exchange for a bailout that is seen as the only solution to stop the country’s economic meltdown.
Protests continue in the country on Friday as US Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Barbara Leaf arrived in Lebanon on a highest level visit since the Biden administration took office. Leaf is scheduled to meet Lebanon's leaders, push for reforms and put an end to the void in the presidency.