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Morning brief

Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Everything you need to know to start your Wednesday

A monitor in the COVID-19 ward of the Rafik Hariri University Hospital in Beirut. (Hussam Shbaro)

In a grim new record, 23 new COVID-19 deaths were registered in Lebanon, bringing the death toll to 934. The local test positivity rate dropped to 11 percent Tuesday, the eleventh day of the latest COVID-19 lockdown. The caretaker health minister said that Lebanon’s agreement with Pfizer would see the pharmaceutical company provide its vaccine — which is awaiting approval by the US Food and Drug Administration — by the end of March 2021 at the latest. Hamad Hassan also said that a delicate balance must be struck between public health and economic needs, ahead of the ministerial committee’s meeting scheduled today to discuss the end of the COVID-19 shutdown, set for Nov. 30.

The president sent a letter to Parliament calling for the legislature to enable a forensic audit of Banque du Liban and other state institutions. Michel Aoun’s missive said that Alvarez & Marsal’s termination last week of its contract to audit the central bank was a “serious setback,” warning that Lebanon risks appearing as a “rogue state.” Speaker Nabih Berri called for Parliament to meet Friday to discuss Aoun’s letter, which was sent pursuant to Article 53 of the Constitution, allowing the president to address the legislature. Alvarez & Marsal dropped out of its audit of BDL after the central bank’s refusal to hand over documents on the dubious legal grounds that doing so would violate banking secrecy.

The Association of Parents of Students Abroad is set to rally today at 10:30 a.m. outside Nabih Berri’s residence in the Ain al-Tineh area of Beirut. The group — one of two lobbying for the implementation of the “student dollars law” — said that it wants to meet with the parliamentary speaker to gain his support for the immediate execution of the legislation. The law allows depositors to transfer up to $10,000 at the official exchange rate for students living abroad. While the law was published by the Official Gazette in October, families are still facing obstacles to transferring funds. The Friday before last, Berri said implementation of the law would begin the following week.

The Economic Committees will hold a press conference today at noon on the issue of insurance claims for damage wrought by the Aug. 4 Beirut port explosion. The private sector lobby, which is headed by former minister Mohamad Choucair, is demanding the investigation into the blast be completed. The state’s Insurance Control Commission in its latest report said that just over 1 percent of insurance claims from the blast had been settled as of Nov. 6. as insurers await the state’s investigation into the explosion. It’s been 113 days since the devastating blast that killed over 200 people.

Parliament will hold a joint committee session today to discuss proposed laws for national elections scheduled for 2022. A proposal put forward by MPs Anwar El-Khalil and Ibrahim Azar calls for one electoral district for the whole country with no sectarian allotment of seats. To complement this proposal, the two MPs, who caucus with the Amal Movement, have also proposed creating a Senate — as called for by the 1989 Taif Agreement — composed of 46 senators representing the country’s sects. Meanwhile, former Premier Najib Mikati’s parliamentary bloc is putting forward a draft law maintaining sectarian allotment based on proportional voting with larger electoral districts than those in the 2018 elections. The proposal keeps a system of preferential voting for candidates within smaller subdistricts. Both proposals call for quotas for women in Parliament. If history is a guide, the process for formulating a new electoral law will be a long one; the 2013 parliamentary elections were delayed for five years due to a lack of consensus among the political class on how to hold the vote.


In a grim new record, 23 new COVID-19 deaths were registered in Lebanon, bringing the death toll to 934. The local test positivity rate dropped to 11 percent Tuesday, the eleventh day of the latest COVID-19 lockdown. The caretaker health minister said that Lebanon’s agreement with Pfizer would see the pharmaceutical company provide its vaccine — which is awaiting approval by the US Food and...