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Morning Brief

Blackouts to worsen, banking regulation developments expected, MPs to talk Saudi ban: All you need to know today

Here’s what happened over the weekend and what to expect today, Monday, June 7, and this week

Blackouts to worsen, banking regulation developments expected,  MPs to talk Saudi ban: All you need to know today

People gather in front of a vaccination registration office in Akkar. (Credit: NNA)

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Countrywide blackouts are expected to get worse, with generators shutting down for five hours per day this week. The head of the private generator owners’ syndicate told L’Orient Today that the planned shutdowns are due to fuel shortages — the same problem facing the state electricity monopoly, which is only providing a few hours of power each day. The fuel problem, which is already affecting electricity and motorists, who have been lining up at gas stations, may also degrade the country’s internet connection. Yesterday, the head of state telecoms operator Ogero warned that the lack of electricity and fuel for generators was threatening the company’s ability to provide services. Partial blame for the fuel crisis has been cast on the central bank for failing to pay for fuel imports with its dwindling foreign currency reserves.

Two major developments are expected today affecting bank depositors: the finalization of a capital controls law in committee and the publication of a plan to allow depositors to withdraw $800 per month, half in dollars. Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee is set to finish the long-delayed capital controls law early this afternoon, with committee chair Ibrahim Kanaan giving a press conference afterward. The bill would place legal restrictions on the withdrawal and transfer of bank deposits and other capital, measures that have been called for by the International Monetary Fund among others. Meanwhile, Banque du Liban is expected to issue details of a plan announced Friday to allow depositors to withdraw $800 each month, half in dollars and half in lira at BDL’s Sayrafa rate, currently around LL12,000 to the greenback. One major question to be answered: where will the dollars come from? The central bank said banks should initially use dollars from their accounts abroad, but banks have reportedly complained that they do not have enough dollars to cover such an operation.

Parliamentarians and ministers will meet today to discuss reports of an expanded Saudi ban on Lebanese exports. The expanded ban, first reported in a letter from Lebanon’s embassy in Riyadh, would build on a produce ban the kingdom slapped on the country in April following the discovery of drug-laden pomegranates. It could go into effect as early as this month, further crippling Lebanon’s efforts to attract dollars from abroad to shore up critically low foreign currency reserves. A press conference will follow today’s meeting.

Two people were killed in fighting yesterday in the Rashidieh Palestinian refugee camp near Sur. Eight others were wounded during the clash, which broke out after Fateh and other factions besieged the house of a suspected murderer and drug dealer, Al Akhbar reported. During the confrontation, a Fateh member and the suspect’s brother were shot and later died, while the target himself was severely wounded. Late last night, the suspect was transported to hospital under security forces’ supervision.

Nearly 2,700 people ages 60 and up received their first shots of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine yesterday. The so-called vaccine marathon, held in the provinces of Akkar, Baalbeck-Hermel and Bekaa, allowed people to walk in without prior appointments, a shift in strategy for the state’s struggling vaccination efforts. This was the second such “marathon,” and the first using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. More than 10,500 people outside the capital received shots of the AstraZeneca vaccine the weekend before. In total, about 285,000 people have been fully immunized, with another 285,000 receiving their first shot. New infections, meanwhile, have recently been in the low hundreds, with deaths in the single digits.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Countrywide blackouts are expected to get worse, with generators shutting down for five hours per day this week. The head of the private generator owners’ syndicate told L’Orient Today that the planned shutdowns are due to fuel shortages — the same problem facing the state electricity monopoly, which is only providing a few...