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Morning Brief

Egyptian gas exports imminent, drug prices leap upwards, US bank rolls medical supplies and military helicopters: All you need to know today

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Wednesday, Nov. 17

Lebanon's Zouk thermal power station. (Credit: PHB illustrative photo)

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Egyptian natural gas exports to Lebanon will begin by “the start of next year” at the latest, according to Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El-Molla. The announcement came on the sidelines of an oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi. El-Molla estimated his country would export 1.7 to 1.84 million cubic meters of gas per day to Lebanon, in line with estimates given by Lebanese Energy Minister Walid Fayad in October. The imports would help to lessen the energy crisis facing Lebanon but would not be enough to end it. The planned imports are part of an US-backed initiative that would entail bringing natural gas to Lebanon by way of Syria, with the Americans waiving Caesar Act sanctions on Syria to facilitate the plan.

The previously announced removal of more medication subsidies reportedly went into effect yesterday, with prices in pharmacies jumping dramatically. Last Tuesday, Health Minister Firass Abiad announced that “subsidies on drugs for chronic diseases will be partially lifted” but some others would remain in place. Local independent outlet Megaphone reported that the price of diabetes medicine rose 80 percent, and a packet of baby formula reached LL94,000. Pharmacies contacted by L'Orient Today Tuesday confirmed that price increases had taken effect. This move follows a previous round of partial subsidy withdrawals that took place in July. Earlier this year politicians promised that subsidy removals would be replaced by social safety net programs, but those have yet to be implemented while subsidies continue to shrink.

A joint committee session in Parliament that was scheduled for today has been canceled, according to a media spokesperson at Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Ain al-Tineh residence. She did not give a reason for the cancelation. The committees were to continue studying a long-delayed draft  capital control law that would regulate bank withdrawals and transfers and replace the current, two-year-running status quo of informal ad hoc measures applied by commercial banks. Last month Parliament sent the draft law back to committee for study. The full Parliament has not met since then, following a spat between political factions over quorum rules and the date of the 2022 parliamentary elections. At the current pace, it is not clear when, if ever, a capital control law will be enacted.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s visit to Lebanon continues today, with a press conference scheduled for the afternoon. Yesterday, Çavuşoğlu met with President Michel Aoun, Economy Minister Amin Salam and Foreign Minister Abdallah Bou Habib. He told reporters his government’s “only agenda in Lebanon is to ensure peace, calm and happiness.” He discussed bilateral economic relations with various Lebanese leaders. Lebanon’s trading partners have shrunk in number recently, with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia banning imports from Lebanon. Turkey’s government has competed with Saudi Arabia for influence among the region’s Sunni Muslims in recent years, notably in Syria.

Yet more wildfires broke out yesterday in Akkar and the Bekaa, marking the fourth consecutive day of forest fires around the country. The army and Civil Defense responded to the blazes, with the army deploying helicopters to assist. Interior Ministry investigations have been opened into the fires to determine their cause. Environment Minister Nasser Yassin on Monday described the wildfires as “man made.” Similar claims have been made about at least some of the fires by Civil Defense Director Raymond Khattar and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.

UNICEF delivered 97 tons of badly needed medical supplies to Lebanon’s beleaguered health sector yesterday, according to a statement from the UN agency. This donation was almost entirely bankrolled by the United States government, which contributed $1 million, an embassy spokesperson told L’Orient Today. Meanwhile the Lebanese Army received six helicopters from the Americans.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.Egyptian natural gas exports to Lebanon will begin by “the start of next year” at the latest, according to Egyptian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek El-Molla. The announcement came on the sidelines of an oil and gas conference in Abu Dhabi. El-Molla estimated his country would export 1.7 to 1.84 million cubic...