The cabinet approved the 2022 draft budget at a meeting in Baabda yesterday. Speaking after the meeting, Prime Minister Najib Mikati called the budget “the first step towards recovery,” saying it “is a demand from the International Monetary Fund but it is also an internal need.” The state-run National News Agency reported President Michel Aoun as saying during the cabinet session that “it is important that the budget plan be accompanied by a financial and economic rescue plan.” Reaction to the news was mixed, with some commentators taking issue with the billionaire prime minister’s statement that “we are no longer able to give electricity and telecommunications for free” meaning the rates would need to be increased. Some government services, like electricity and telecommunications, have continued to be priced at the official exchange rate of LL1,500 to the US dollar, even though the currency has lost over 90 percent of its value on the parallel market. Mikati said there would be specialized sessions to study those sectors as well as others, such as waste. The budget will now go to Parliament for debate and voting, but the chamber isn’t scheduled to convene until Feb. 21.
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi said he has instructed security forces to demand a local hotel “immediately cancel” two events being held there in support of Bahraini opposition groups. Mawlawi justified the crackdown on free speech and freedom of assembly by saying that the two political events “would offend the authorities of Bahrain and the Gulf countries.” Mawlawi also said his censorship bid is in line with the “Kuwaiti initiative,” under which Lebanon’s government pledged to prevent “offending” Gulf Arab governments. Mawlawi added that he has “taken all necessary investigative measures to gather information about the organizers of the events.” In December a press conference held by Bahrain’s main opposition group angered the gulf monarchy, leading to the Lebanese government ordering the deportation of all non-Lebanese members of the political party.
In response to a challenge filed by the Maronite League, the State Shura Council issued a ruling to block the labor minister’s November 2021 decision granting Palestinians born in Lebanon the right to practice professions previously restricted to them by law. The revelation of the decision came yesterday via the head of the league, former MP Nehmatallah Abi Nasser, but the ruling was issued over a week ago, he said. The Shura Council’s decision found that the labor minister had exceeded his authority, Abi Nasser said. The appeal had been pending since it was filed by the Maronite League in late December.
Economy Minister Amin Salam issued a circular on Thursday requiring supermarkets to submit the prices of their main commodities to the ministry every Monday. The circular is an attempt to enforce a 1972 law on maximum profit rates for wholesale trade. The circular comes after an inspection tour of supermarkets in Beirut last Wednesday showed that “the decrease in [product] prices did not match that of the lira exchange rate,” according to Economy Ministry Director-General Mohamad Abou Haidar, in remarks reported by the state-run National News Agency. During his survey, Abou Haidar found “flagrant violations in pricing” in response to which “verbal warnings” were issued.
The National Library was formally reopened yesterday, after damage from the Beirut port explosion was repaired. The library’s building in Sanayeh was damaged along with its equipment, according to Culture Minister Mohammad Mortada. The books themselves escaped unharmed, he said, because they were transferred to the library’s lower warehouses in line with the library’s “preventive preservation plan.”
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: "Dilapidated state of Baabda’s Justice Palace angers judges"
There will be no morning brief on Monday due to the public holiday that day, which commemorates the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
The cabinet approved the 2022 draft budget at a meeting in Baabda yesterday. Speaking after the meeting, Prime Minister Najib Mikati called the budget “the first step towards recovery,” saying it “is a demand from the International Monetary Fund but it is also an internal need.” The state-run National News Agency reported President Michel Aoun as saying during the cabinet...