BEIRUT: News of a Lebanese dance group winning the “America’s Got Talent” television competition sparked joy across the country on Thursday.
Mayyas, an all-female dance troupe, dazzled the show’s judges and audience in the competition’s 17th season before winning $1 million and a headlining show in Las Vegas.
Lebanese President Michel Aoun called the team’s choreographer, Nadim Cherfan, who is still in the United States with his group, and congratulated him on the feat.
He informed him of his decision to award the team the Lebanese Order of Merit.
The dancers adopted the slogan “For You Lebanon” during the qualifying rounds, where he competed against 10 other contenders.
The excitement was felt on social media, which was inundated with congratulatory messages.
Twitter users hailed the achievement as a beacon 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 crew of the Mayyas who wowed the world showed us a picture of the Lebanon we love – a rare bird that will forever be the jewel of the Arab world.”
Although the Lebanese state did not cover the group’s travel expenses, which were ultimately paid for by the dancers’ families and accompanying members, politicians were also quick to congratulate the team.
Acting Prime Minister Najib Mikati said: “Lebanese creativity shines through this dazzling performance by the Mayyas group.
Former Prime Minister Fouad Siniora said the crew “was born out of the darkness and failure that Lebanon has witnessed due to its leadership, proving that Lebanon is full of talent and creativity and that he only has to follow the right path of fair competition based on competence, integrity and perseverance”.
The Lebanese Foreign Ministry said it shared the happiness of Lebanese expatriates residing in the United States, who voted and supported the team.
The Minister of Culture, Mohammed Wissam Mortada, also sent his congratulations, as did the Ministry of Tourism, as well as a number of MPs and business figures.
The Lebanese army command tweeted that the crew “carried the message of Lebanon – a bright and vibrant country – to the world”.
This success, achieved by a young Lebanese group, juxtaposes heavily with the country’s broader malaise caused by older politicians.
Their failure to find effective solutions to save Lebanon from its economic difficulties has been reflected in the ongoing discussions on the 2022 draft budget, the approval of which has been delayed for nine months.
Discussions in parliament began on Thursday and are expected to last two days.
Lebanon’s 2022 budget may not meet International Monetary Fund requirements for a rescue package, a member of Lebanon’s negotiating team told Reuters on Thursday.
Economy Minister Amin Salam said he feared the IMF could not be satisfied with the budget figures because it ignored the rights of depositors and employees and their security funds, other economic experts said.
He also ignored the recovery of stolen and smuggled money and the importance of pursuing criminal investigations into illicit enrichment cases.
The IMF said a staff mission will visit Lebanon to discuss ways to “accelerate” the implementation of agreed reforms required for the lending program.
A financial expert said: “If the budget is approved by imposing additional taxes and fees before the recovery plan matures in a scientific and realistic way, it will overwhelm citizens following the lifting of subsidies on basic products and to the erosion of their salaries.
MP Ibrahim Kanaan, Chairman of the Finance and Budget Committee, argued during the budget discussion session that the budget lacked economic and social vision in a context of high unemployment, low growth rates and low capital expenditure allowances.
Kanaan pointed out that the scenarios established 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 guarantee the necessary imports.
This creates an imbalance since imports are not enough to cover wages and contributions allocated to wages, social benefits and debt service, Kanaan added.