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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Everything you need to know to start your Tuesday

Elie Ferzli leans over to speak to Nabih Berri as the latter presides over a session of Parliament on Sept. 30. (Credit: Parliament)

BEIRUT – Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, Oct. 20.

MPs are set to meet at UNESCO Palace at 11 a.m. today to kick off Parliament's fall term. While each fall begins with the routine election of officers and committee members — typically, few or no changes are made — this year, Parliament must fill the positions of eight MPs who resigned in the wake of the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion. Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli told L’Orient Today that Speaker Nabih Berri may also call for a legislative session to discuss a general amnesty law to release detainees from overcrowded prisons amid coronavirus outbreaks. The law failed to pass in Parliament’s last session after three major blocs boycotted the vote, stripping it of quorum.

The International Monetary Fund said that Lebanon should overhaul its subsidy system to target the most vulnerable populations, rather than maintain its blanket program. This, the IMF said, would allow the country to better spend its remaining foreign currency reserves, $1.8 billion of which remains for subsidizing key imports such as wheat, fuel and medicine, a source told Reuters. Over the last few weeks, labor unions and professional syndicates have held strikes and protests against the potential cutting of subsidies, the last lifeline for some as the value of the lira plummets and prices soar. Authorities have signaled the end of subsidies within months.

More than 1,000 liters of petrol and diesel were seized from a warehouse opposite the Makassed Hospital in Beirut’s Tariq Al-Jadideh neighborhood. Earlier this month, four people were killed in a diesel explosion in the same area, and less than 24 hours later, one man was killed and dozens injured in separate gas tank explosions in Achrafieh and Jiyyeh, south of the capital. The apparent unsafe stockpiling of fuel has prompted Beirut Gov. Marwan Abboud to put citywide restrictions in place. But many worry that the price of fuel will spiral if and when subsidies are removed.

After a gathering took place in front of the Presidential Palace yesterday to demand that Michel Aoun sign a law regarding transfers to students abroad, the president said he had already done so on Friday. The law, passed by Parliament on Sep. 30, allows families to send $10,000 to students abroad at the official exchange rate of LL1,515. Banks blocked payments abroad and cut credit card spending limits in November, leaving students in foreign countries unable to withdraw from their Lebanese bank accounts, pay university fees or receive money from family or friends in Lebanon. Students who moved abroad to begin their studies this fall semester will not be able to benefit from the new arrangement.

The Higher Relief Committee announced that it had transferred LL100 billion to the army to hand out as compensation to victims of the Aug. 4 port blast. It is not yet clear how the money will be distributed, to whom and in what amounts, but the committee said it would be based on a list of names that have been classified according to need. The funds’ purchasing power is probably somewhere between $13 million (at the market exchange rate) and $66 million (at the official exchange rate). Tens of thousands of people were injured or had their homes or businesses heavily damaged in the explosion.

Abbas Ibrahim, the head of General Security, has canceled meetings in Paris and delayed his return to Beirut after testing positive for COVID-19. He took the coronavirus test in Washington before a scheduled trip to the French capital. Nizar Zakka, whose freedom from four years of detention in Iran was secured with Ibrahim’s aid, told LBC last night that the security chief is currently in Boston. Ibrahim was set to hold talks in Paris with French officials reportedly regarding the formation of a new cabinet ahead of parliamentary consultations, scheduled for Thursday, to nominate a new premier.

Lebanon recorded 995 new coronavirus cases yesterday and six new deaths, bringing the number of active cases to 33,563 and the death toll to 525. As winter approaches and cases continue to rise, Firass Abiad, the manager of Lebanon’s largest public hospital, warned that demand for COVID-19 beds may soon outstrip availability. He also said that the primary limitation in increasing ICU capacity was hospital staff, not equipment.


BEIRUT – Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Tuesday, Oct. 20.

MPs are set to meet at UNESCO Palace at 11 a.m. today to kick off Parliament's fall term. While each fall begins with the routine election of officers and committee members — typically, few or no changes are made — this year, Parliament must fill the positions of eight MPs who resigned in...