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Upwards of 100 protesters faced off with riot police outside a Downtown branch of Bank of Beirut yesterday as they confronted the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon. A protester hurled an egg at Salim Sfeir, the ABL head, who is also Beirut Bank’s CEO, and according to him and multiple eyewitnesses was struck by police in response. The demonstrators, who had gathered earlier in the day in front of Banque du Liban’s Hamra headquarters before moving Downtown, denounced informal capital controls at commercial banks that have kept depositors locked away from their dollar holdings for two years. Brandishing signs reading “Pandora exposed you” — a reference to the “Pandora Papers,” which revealed a large share of Lebanese officials with offshore holdings — they called for their savings to be returned to them in the same currency as they were deposited.
Bread prices have increased yet again in another hit to food security in Lebanon, where as of August food costs had already quadrupled year on year. A large, 820-gram bread bundle at bakeries now costs LL4,500 — a 11.6 percent per-gram price increase from the price set in early September — and a small, 375-gram bundle costs LL3,000, a 6.2 percent increase per gram. With costs climbing ever higher, the prime minister’s office tweeted following a meeting between Najib Mikati and the World Food Program’s Middle East and North Africa regional director that “the WFP will support approximately 800,000 Lebanese individuals by the end of this year.” Meanwhile, the Lebanese government’s long-delayed ration card assistance program continues to languish; it unexpectedly came up during cabinet’s meeting on Wednesday evening, with ministers saying the program’s continued delays are stemming from the lack of a clear funding source.
Many gas stations throughout the country closed yesterday after importers did not distribute fuel due to the Energy Ministry’s failure to release its weekly price list, the fuel distributors syndicate head reportedly said. According to Georges Brax, the gas station owners syndicate spokesperson, Energy Minister Walid Fayad was expected to sign the new fuel price list upon his return to Lebanon last night, allowing fuel distribution to resume today. Meanwhile, a third vessel carrying Iranian fuel bound for Lebanon appears to have arrived at the Syrian port of Banias, the website TankerTracker.com reported. While the first two shipments carried diesel to help ease the country’s paralyzing power outages, this shipment is expected to include gasoline, helping to continue abating the shortages that gripped residents earlier this year but have lessened in recent weeks.
Lebanon has been tasked with securing World Bank funding for an initiative that would see power from Jordan’s grid transferred to the land of the cedars via interconnections in Syria. Meanwhile, Jordan and Syria have agreed on a timeframe and action plan for restarting the line between their countries. The tasks were decided on yesterday during a meeting between Fayad and his Syrian and Jordanian counterparts centered on assistance to Lebanon’s energy sector, Jordanian state media reported. The initiative is part of a two-pronged US-backed plan. The arrangements for the plan’s other main initiative — whereby Lebanon would receive Egyptian gas via a pipeline running through Jordan and Syria — are nearing completion, Egypt’s petroleum minister said on Tuesday after a meeting with Fayad.
Education Minister Abbas Halabi and Finance Minister Youssef Khalil are set to meet today to decide on a proposal for new compensation package for public school teachers. Halabi presented the plan, which promises full-time public school teachers a raise equivalent to half their current salary, an additional $90 a month paid out at the parallel market exchange rate and a higher transportation allowance, at a meeting of Parliament’s Education Committee on Tuesday. The plan would also raise part-time teachers’ hourly wages by LL10,000, to LL30,000 an hour. The proposal aims to avert an open-ended strike that public school teachers have been threatening as their lira-denominated salaries have devalued and could lead to further delays in kicking off the school year.
Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Upwards of 100 protesters faced off with riot police outside a Downtown branch of Bank of Beirut yesterday as they confronted the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon. A protester hurled an egg at Salim Sfeir, the ABL head, who is also Beirut Bank’s CEO, and according to him and multiple eyewitnesses was struck by police in...