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MORNING BRIEF

Cabinet to meet again today, winter storm shuts down services, Japan aids Lebanon, Akkar MPs receive US Embassy delegation: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Here's what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Friday, Jan. 28, and this weekend

Cabinet to meet again today, winter storm shuts down services, Japan aids Lebanon, Akkar MPs receive US Embassy delegation: Everything you need to know to start your Friday

Snow covers the Roman historic site of Baalbeck in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, following overnight snowfall on Jan. 27, 2022. (Credit: AFP)

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The cabinet is set to meet again today for the fifth day in a row. After yesterday’s cabinet meeting, acting Information Minister Abbas Halabi announced that the government had approved a modification to tariffs at the ports and airport to reflect the changing exchange rate. Halabi said that the finance minister will prepare a study to look into the matter, with the possibility of the new exchange rate being set at that of the government’s Sayrafa platform (LL22,500 to the dollar on Tuesday). The cabinet also decided to exempt from income tax companies that were forced to close because of the Aug. 4, 2020, blast and later reopened. It also canceled an article from the 2020 budget that allowed the collection of taxes and duties in foreign currency. The cabinet finally resumed meetings after a three-month hiatus, which was brought on by a political battle over Judge Tarek Bitar’s investigation into the Beirut port blast, with Amal and Hezbollah ministers seeking to limit his role. Last week both parties said they would return to cabinet meetings due to the deteriorating situation in Lebanon. Once approved, Parliament will vote on the budget.

Another raging winter storm has caused disruption across the country. A fierce storm blew across Lebanon overnight yesterday, leaving snow on the beaches of Jbeil and driving hyenas from the mountains into some villages in the Bekaa. Electricité de Zahle said its electrical grid was damaged when transmission lines connecting it to EDL were severed by trees that fell under the weight of ice and snow. The company has asked public bodies to open blocked roads so that technicians can repair the grid and restore power to homes, or else face “major humanitarian disaster.” Similarly, the South Lebanon Water Establishment said it was witnessing interruptions of electrical service across the southern districts. Meanwhile, secondary roads and the primary road in the Rashaya and Baalbeck districts were closed because of snow. The Public Works and Transport Ministry has called on residents to drive carefully in mountain areas so as to not obstruct road clearing work taking place.

The Japanese government has donated $1.8 million to UNICEF to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable. The donation is set to support 35,000 people across the country. UNICEF announced that the money would be used to distribute duvets, jackets, thermal suits, outerwear and socks in the coming two months. This donation comes as Lebanon continues to experience a crippling economic crisis and freezing winter weather. The Central Administration of Statistics estimated inflation to have risen by 224.39 percent year-on-year in December 2021, signifying a sharp decrease in purchasing power for most citizens of Lebanon.

A delegation from the US Embassy met with Future Movement MPs in Akkar yesterday. The delegation included political and military attachés, who visited MPs Walid Baarini, Tarek Merhebi, and Hadi Hobeich. It is unknown if they will heed the call of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri and abstain from running in the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for May 15. The visit coincided with Ambassador Dorthy Shea’s visit to Tripoli for the launch of a nationwide COVID-19 vaccination campaign in partnership with the American University of Beirut and the Ministry of Health.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: "Lebanese mothers and fathers push for expanded parental leave"



Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The cabinet is set to meet again today for the fifth day in a row. After yesterday’s cabinet meeting, acting Information Minister Abbas Halabi announced that the government had approved a modification to tariffs at the ports and airport to reflect the changing exchange rate. Halabi said that the finance minister will prepare a study...