Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.
Information Minister George Kurdahi is expected to present his resignation today, L’Orient’s political correspondent and multiple other news outlets reported sources as saying late last night. The minister is scheduled to speak in a press conference at his ministry at 1 p.m. Speculation is rife that the resignation forms one element of a barter deal designed to break a cabinet paralysis that has persisted since a government session on Oct. 12 was adjourned after Amal and Hezbollah affiliated ministers threatened to walk out over disagreement among ministers on taking a stance on Judge Tarek Bitar’s leadership of the Beirut port explosion investigation, which they allege he has “politicized.” In exchange for the Hezbollah-backed Marada Movement minister’s stepping down, the suggestion is that Bitar’s jurisdiction in the blast probe would be reined in so that he could no longer pursue the prosecution of sitting MPs and ministers, who would instead be answerable to the Supreme Council in relation to the probe. The deal followed discussions between Lebanese leaders and French President Emmanuel Macron on the eve of his planned tour of the Gulf, during which sources suggested Macron could use Kurdahi’s departure as an argument for the lifting of Saudi-led punitive measures against Lebanon. Kurdahi has been at the heart of a diplomatic rift between Lebanon and several Gulf states since comments he made on the Saudi role in the war in Yemen were aired in late October. The kingdom, in reaction, severed diplomatic ties with Lebanon and banned all Lebanese imports.
More than 60 percent of residents surveyed in Lebanon say they want to emigrate, according to a recent survey. The polling company, Gallup, said that the number of people who are reporting negative emotions in Lebanon, including stress, sadness and anger, is the highest it has been in the company’s 16-year history of polling in Lebanon. The survey shows that nearly nine in 10 people in Lebanon are finding it hard to get by amid lengthy electricity blackouts and the economic conditions that have put food and fuel out of reach for many families. Just yesterday, IMPACT, which operates the registration platform for the World Bank-funded Emergency Social Safety Net and the government's ration card, reported that 31,700 individuals registered on the government's electronic platform within only one day of its introduction.
The Health Ministry and the World Bank settled on an agreement yesterday to support the hospitalization costs of public health insurance patients. Under this agreement, hospitals will be paid three and a half times the amount covered by the government, lowering the difference to be paid by patients. During a press conference, Health Minister Firass Abiad said that this deal also covers doctors’ fees, explaining that in this way “everyone will get their full rights, so as to help doctors stay in Lebanon and continue their mission.” In September, the World Health Organization estimated that nearly 40 percent of Lebanon's doctors and 30 percent of nurses had left the country since October 2019. For those health professionals who have remained in Lebanon, salary delays and medical supply shortages wrought by the economic crisis combined with the pressure the COVID-19 pandemic places on health care facilities, has precipitated intermittent strikes by staff in governmental hospitals over the last few months. Meanwhile, as fear mounts of another COVID-19 wave in the face of the global spread of the new Omicron variant, France donated 500,000 Pfizer vaccinations to Lebanon yesterday. The contribution comes after Abiad announced additional steps to combat the escalating number of new COVID-19 cases in Lebanon.
Lebanese residents with disabilities are set to receive direct financial support in US dollars, according to an announcement made yesterday by two UN organizations and the EU. According to a statement from UNICEF, this initiative aims to reach approximately 20,000 people with disabilities, whether Lebanese or non-Lebanese, living in Lebanon. This new national social assistance program will be established in collaboration with the Social Affairs Ministry. However, when people with disabilities will actually start to receive this aid is not yet finalized, nor is the size of the allowance each will get. A UNICEF representative told L’Orient Today that the payment amounts, as well as whether they will be made yearly or monthly, has yet to be finalized, adding “the method is still being developed and will be disclosed in January.”
Sunday marks 16 months since the catastrophic explosion at the Beirut port when a large quantity of ammonium nitrate that had been carelessly stored in a warehouse for years detonated. To date, no senior officials have been held to account for the chemical's presence, storage or explosion.
CORRECTION: This article originally states that Bitar’s jurisdiction in the blast probe would be reined in so that he could no longer pursue the prosecution of sitting MPs and ministers, who would instead be answerable to the Constitutional Council in relation to the probe. They would be answerable to the Supreme Council.