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Morning Brief

Aoun censures BDL, pharmacists’ profit margins rise, bread prices drop slightly: Everything you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, April 8

Aoun censures BDL, pharmacists’ profit margins rise, bread prices drop slightly: Everything you need to know today

President Michel Aoun spoke from the Presidential Palace in Baabda on Wednesday. (Credit: Dalati Nohra)

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The president condemned the central bank for what he called an attempt to block a forensic audit of its accounts. In a televised address yesterday, Michel Aoun said the “main responsibility for the situation rests on [BDL’s] shoulders” and accused Banque du Liban of violating Lebanon’s code of money and credit law while failing to “regulate banking transactions and take the necessary steps to protect peoples’ deposits.” His speech came a day after the Finance Ministry announced that BDL had agreed to hand over the remainder of the documents required for the audit by the end of the month. BDL last week claimed it had submitted “all state and banks’ accounts” available to it, only to be contradicted by the outgoing finance minister who said it had provided just 42 percent of the necessary documents.

The Health Ministry increased pharmacies’ profit margins for pharmaceutical drugs, narrowly averting a strike planned for today. Pharmacists’ profits are calculated as a percentage of the medicine price plus a fixed charge on A1 and A2 drugs, the two cheapest drug categories. The fixed charge for the A1 drugs increased from LL1,000 to LL2,500, while for A2 drugs it rose from LL1,500 to LL3,900. The increase takes place after a large number of pharmacists across the country shuttered their stores in mid-March, saying their profit margins were no longer sustainable amid the lira’s collapse. Following the ministry’s decision, pharmacists suspended a strike scheduled for today.

As fears of food insecurity over the coming months loom, the Economy Ministry slightly lowered the price of bread. Large bundles will increase to 920 grams but still cost LL2,500, a 2 percent price cut per gram. Small packs will also increase in size, to 440 grams, and cost LL1,750, again representing a 2 percent per gram price drop. The slight price change is the second decrease in as many weeks and comes as Lebanon struggles to secure basic subsidized imports, including fuel. Fuel shortages were laid bare on Wednesday with cars queuing up outside gas stations as importers reported delays in securing petrol. The importers of subsidized goods have blamed the central bank for delaying payments abroad as its foreign currency reserves dwindle; however, BDL denies this claim.

Egypt’s foreign minister made a rare trip to Lebanon yesterday, pressuring top leaders to speedily form a new cabinet. During his visit, Sameh Shourki stressed “the importance of working vigorously and swiftly to form a government of specialists in order to get out of this crisis.” Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian took to France’s Senate floor to accuse Lebanon’s political class of “deliberately obstructing” solutions to the country’s many crises. “The decisions they take or refuse to take in the coming few days will be decisive,” Le Drian said. Saturday will mark eight months since Hassan Diab’s government resigned in the aftermath of the Beirut port explosion.

The medical equipment and devices importers’ syndicate will hold a press conference today in its most recent attempt to sound the alarm over the difficulties confronting the health sector. Since Lebanon’s economic crisis accelerated in October 2019, medical equipment importers have decried the financial challenges they face in importing basic medical supplies. Such imports have all but dried up in recent months as cash-strapped commercial banks struggle to meet foreign exchange requests. The syndicate is set to present a new plan after more than “30 meetings with officials” that it says have failed to lead to the “establishment of a clear, scientific and practical mechanism regarding the import and sale of medical supplies.”


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The president condemned the central bank for what he called an attempt to block a forensic audit of its accounts. In a televised address yesterday, Michel Aoun said the “main responsibility for the situation rests on [BDL’s] shoulders” and accused Banque du Liban of violating Lebanon’s code of money and credit law while...