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MORNING BRIEF

Cabinet meeting scheduled, Hariri back in town, storm Hiba recedes: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Jan. 21, and this weekend

Cabinet meeting scheduled, Hariri back in town, storm Hiba recedes: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

This aerial view shows snow-clad cedar trees in the Chouf area of Mount Lebanon on Jan. 20, 2022. (Credit: AFP)

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The Cabinet is scheduled to convene on Monday at 9 a.m. in its first meeting since Oct. 12 of last year. The ministers will discuss the draft general budget law for 2022 and other topics as part of a 56-item agenda, according to the National News Agency. The cabinet has been unable to meet since last October due to bitter disagreements over the fate of judge Tarek Bitar’s leadership of the investigation into the 2020 Beirut port explosion. On Jan. 15 Hezbollah and Amal announced their ministers would not boycott a session if called, opening the way for Monday’s scheduled meeting.

Former Prime Minister and current MP Tammam Salam will not stand in 2022 legislative elections, meanwhile former Prime Minister Saad Hariri made a return to the political scene. In a statement, Salam said that he hopes his decision will allow “real change, by giving new figures and new thinking a chance.” Also yesterday, another Sunni heavyweight, Saad Hariri, returned from the United Arab Emirates, where he has been staying for several months and almost immediately went to the Grand Serail to meet with current Prime Minister Najib Mikati. A source close to Hariri said he will hold meetings with the deputies representing his party as well as the party's executive board before deciding whether or not to participate in upcoming parliamentary elections. Hariri retreated from the local political scene last summer after abandoning monthslong efforts to form a new government.

A Lebanese judicial delegation will travel to Paris to meet with French judicial authorities next week to exchange information on the two sides’ investigations into central bank governor Riad Salameh, AFP reported. Jean Tannous, leading the local judicial investigation into Salameh, and another judge, Raja Hamoush, are part of the delegation, which will reportedly focus on cooperation between investigators. Judicial officials in France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Lichtenstein have launched investigations based on suspicions of Salameh and some of his associates having engaged in money laundering and illicit enrichment, among other crimes. In parallel, a Lebanese investigation is underway, but has reportedly been stymied by political interference.

Meanwhile, Salameh announced yesterday that BDL will continue to enforce Circular 161, allowing banks to buy as many US dollars from the central bank as they want, in exchange for lira held in their accounts and their clients’ accounts, at the prevailing Sayrafa rate. Over the past week, BDL has been engaged in an intervention into the currency exchange market to bolster the value of the lira, which reached a record low of LL33,000 to the US dollar on Jan. 11. Reports have noted the uptick in daily trading volume on the central bank’s Sayrafa platform as indicating the magnitude of the intervention, but yesterday Salameh said this was not an accurate indicator of the scale of the intervention because the platform also reflects transactions between banks and money exchangers in which BDL “does not necessarily” intervene. The difference between the Sayrafa exchange rate and the parallel market rate has compressed to around 1 percent, compared to an average of more than 15 percent previously.

Winter storm Hiba receded yesterday, leaving snow and ice at 500 meters and above. In the mountains and the Bekaa valley crops were damaged, pipes froze and then broke, and roads were impassable, forcing schools to close. The temperature remained cold last night, with Baalbek reaching 5 degrees below zero. Drivers moving about in the mountains may call the Traffic Management Authority at 1720 to inquire about the state of the roads before departing.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up. The Cabinet is scheduled to convene on Monday at 9 a.m. in its first meeting since Oct. 12 of last year. The ministers will discuss the draft general budget law for 2022 and other topics as part of a 56-item agenda, according to the National News Agency. The cabinet has been unable to meet since last October due to bitter...