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MP vaccination scandal, electricity warning, draft law on World Bank loan progresses: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, February 24, 2021

MP vaccination scandal, electricity warning, draft law on World Bank loan progresses: Everything you need to know today

Abdul Rahman Bizri, head of the COVID-19 vaccination committee, talks during a press conference in Sidon on Wednesday. (Credit: Aziz Taher/Reuters)

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Controversy erupted over MPs from several major political blocs receiving COVID-19 inoculations, which the World Bank said was a violation of the national vaccination plan. The dozen MPs, many between 70 and 80 years old, were registered on the government’s platform, Parliament secretary-general Adnan Daher told L’Orient Today. All but confirming line-jumping, the World Bank’s regional director for the Middle East said that the international agency monitoring the vaccination program had confirmed a clear violation of the national inoculation plan, putting further World Bank funding for vaccines into question. The head of the COVID-19 vaccination committee, Abdul Rahman Bizri, labeled the MPs’ actions a “breach that cannot be tolerated and hurts people’s confidence in the vaccination campaign.” Meanwhile, amid the growing scrutiny over its vaccination campaign, Lebanon registered 59 COVID-19 deaths yesterday.

The outgoing energy minister warned that without financing for more fuel, Lebanon will be unable to generate electricity beyond March. Raymond Ghajar told Reuters that he had requested the country’s president, speaker of Parliament and caretaker premier to “approve an emergency loan for the state power company” worth LL1.5 trillion. With no replacement fuel supplier found for the Algerian firm previously contracted by Lebanon, Ghajar has trumpeted the possibility of importing fuel from Iraq, one of a potential set of solutions, each of which brings its own pitfalls.

Parliamentary committees moved forward a draft law to enable a World Bank social safety net program. Alain Aoun, a member of the finance committee that met alongside the social affairs committee, told L’Orient Today that the legislation’s next step was a vote on the floor of the legislature. On Jan. 12, the World Bank approved the $246 million loan, which is centered around a project to provide cash assistance to some 147,000 vulnerable families.

Amid the recent depreciation of the lira, the country’s top financial prosecutor pressed charges against money exchangers. Judge Ali Ibrahim charged several exchangers for alleged money laundering and fraud before the Special Investigation Commission, the National News Agency reported yesterday. Established in 2001, the SIC — which is chaired by the central bank governor — is an ostensibly independent body with judicial status. Lebanon’s state news added that Ibrahim’s charges would be referred to the top investigative judge for Mount Lebanon. Last week, the lira dropped past the LL9,000 mark against the US dollar for the first time since July. In May, the financial prosecutor charged money exchangers following another plunge in value of the local currency.

Activists have called for renewed protests today outside the Military Tribunal in Beirut over its decision to bring terrorism charges against Tripoli demonstrators. The secretive court on Monday charged 35 protesters, 18 of whom were in detention, including a minor, with terrorism and theft, according to one of their defense attorneys. The dramatic charges relate to the protests last month in Tripoli, which saw demonstrators set alight the municipal headquarters of the northern city. Demonstrators have rallied in front of the Military Tribunal in recent weeks, with the latest protests scheduled for 11 a.m. today.

The Lebanese Forces will meet with the Maronite patriarch today in a show of support for the cleric’s desire for an international conference on Lebanon. Bechara al-Rai on Feb. 7 called for a summit under UN auspices to tackle the “paralysis of the Lebanese system” and “illegal weapons.” The top Maronite spiritual leader has previously called for Lebanon’s neutrality, interpreted by many as a criticism of Hezbollah and its foreign involvements. Rai insists he was not singling out any single party. The LF — which has been attempting to ride the wave of activism against the political elite — is a strident critic of Hezbollah and its weapons, although the party has joined previous cabinets alongside Hezbollah.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Controversy erupted over MPs from several major political blocs receiving COVID-19 inoculations, which the World Bank said was a violation of the national vaccination plan. The dozen MPs, many between 70 and 80 years old, were registered on the government’s platform, Parliament secretary-general Adnan Daher told L’Orient Today....