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Morning Brief

Inflation soars, World Bank loan deadline met, hospital workers strike: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, July 30, and this weekend

Inflation soars, World Bank loan deadline met, hospital workers strike: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

The cost of food and nonalcoholic beverages rose by more than 200 percent from June 2020 to June 2021. (Credit: Céline Abboud)

Consumer prices doubled from June 2020 to June 2021, new government figures show. Some costs even tripled — the largest year-over-year increase came from prices at restaurants and hotels, which had increased by about 237 percent by June, the beginning of the summer tourist season, from a year before. Prices of food and nonalcoholic beverages also grew by more than 200 percent year on year. Transportation costs, meanwhile, leaped 195 percent during the period, following rising global fuel prices and the government’s decision to partially end fuel subsidies toward the end of June. Since the beginning of the financial crisis two years ago, consumer prices have nearly quadrupled.

Lebanon has met the conditions necessary to receive a $246 million World Bank loan to provide relief to vulnerable families. The program, intended to provide rapid cash assistance to some 147,000 of the country’s poorest families, has been delayed by months because Parliament made a series of changes to the loan agreement without the World Bank’s official approval and because of delays in meeting bureaucratic requirements such as getting a legal opinion confirming the agreement complies with Lebanese law. On Thursday — three months after the original deadline for Lebanon to meet the basic conditions for the loan — World Bank officials said the country had fulfilled them, but additional hurdles remain before recipients can start receiving the aid, such as the appointment of a third-party oversight body. Saroj Kumr Jha, the World Bank’s regional director for the Levant area, told L’Orient Today that the bank “would like the program to start disbursing [aid] in USD to beneficiaries as soon as possible.”

Employees at the leading public hospital in the fight against COVID-19 went on strike to protest their salaries’ diminished value. A group of employees at Rafik Hariri University Hospital said they will maintain a “general strike” until “injustice is lifted.” As is the case with most health care employees in Lebanon, their salaries are set in lira and have not been adjusted for soaring inflation as the lira has lost more than 90 percent of its nominal value against the US dollar. An RHUH spokesperson told L’Orient Today that the hospital remains fully operational and that the management is in negotiations with the employees. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization’s Eastern Mediterranean regional director announced that the region is now in a fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Najib Mikati met with Michel Aoun to discuss cabinet formation for a third time yesterday. The prime minister–designate has met with President Aoun every day since being designated on Monday. In a terse statement to the press, Mikati said only that their next meeting would be after the weekend, on Monday. In a statement, Aoun’s office said the two “exchanged views” on distributing ministerial portfolios among sects “in a positive atmosphere.” In a televised interview later in the day, Mikati dismissed talks about the cabinet being formed before Aug. 4, the first anniversary of the Beirut port blast, noting that candidates will start being chosen on Monday. He said the cabinet is tentatively set to comprise 24 ministers, and that the Interior and Justice ministries, which will supervise the parliamentary elections, should be led by independent ministers. The new premier confirmed that “there is complete cooperation and understanding so far” between Mikati and Aoun, and they are in “agreement on the criteria.”

The families of the victims of the port explosion called for a day of “solidarity and prayer” on the first anniversary of the deadly blast, which killed more than 200. The families called for members of the public to join them in a march from Gemmayzeh to the port on Wednesday, Aug. 4, a national day of mourning on which government offices and most businesses will close. While the families have demanded justice for their loved ones, the official investigation has been hamstrung by layers of immunities for top politicians. Yesterday, the Tripoli Bar Association removed former Public Works Minister Youssef Fenianos’ immunity as a lawyer, following a similar move by the Beirut Bar a day before for Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter. Despite losing immunity as lawyers, Khalil and Zeaiter still enjoy immunity as sitting MPs.


Consumer prices doubled from June 2020 to June 2021, new government figures show. Some costs even tripled — the largest year-over-year increase came from prices at restaurants and hotels, which had increased by about 237 percent by June, the beginning of the summer tourist season, from a year before. Prices of food and nonalcoholic beverages also grew by more than 200 percent year on year....