BEIRUT – Najib Mikati’s cabinet assured after a session on Thursday that subsidies would not be removed from bread and agreed to use $15 million dollars from Lebanon’s allocation of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights for wheat imports, $13 million for medicine and $60 million for maintenance of electricity infrastructure. The ministers also approved the demolition of the Beirut port silos, to be replaced by a monument commemorating the port blast.
Here’s what we know:
• The Information Minister Ziad Makari assured that subsidies will not be lifted from the wheat used in Arabic bread but may be lifted from other products. The cabinet decided to require that the full cabinet must agree on any allocations from the Special Drawing Rights funds and approved $15 million special drawing rights for wheat, $13 million for medicine, and $60 million for maintenance of electricity infrastructure.
• The ministers approved the demolition of Beirut port silos although families of the victims and activists have called for their preservation at least until the probe into the blast is done. The Council for Development and Reconstruction was assigned to supervise the demolition and the Culture Ministry was assigned to create a monument to replace the silos. Officials did not specify when the demolition would take place.
• Mikati explained the requirements outlined in the preliminary agreement reached on April 7 with the International Monetary Fund to obtain financial assistance of $3 billion over a period of four years, conditioned on implementing reforms. The ministers were asked to submit their suggestions for revision in a later session.
• Minister of Labor Mustafa Bayram said that the cabinet decided to extend benefits allocated to public sector employees to National Social Security Fund employees.
• The cabinet was given a week to come back with suggestions concerning the implementation of the IMF deal. The cabinet approved the agreement for future borrowing from the central bank with reservation from the Hezbollah and Amal ministers.
• Regarding the banking secrecy law, the Minister of Information said at the end of the cabinet session that the cabinet would take another week to review the amendments and would discuss it again at the next session . However, the cabinet issued a statement in the evening in which it stated that the bill had been approved and sent to Parliament. No explanation was provided for these contradictory statements.
• The cabinet session was held at the presidential palace in Baabda under the chairmanship of President Michel Aoun. A meeting between Mikati and Aoun took place before the session, while Lebanese University lecturers demonstrated near the Baabda Palace demanding their tenure.
• The meeting’s agenda consists of 29 items, among them a proposal under which investigative Judge Tarek Bitar would be obliged to work alongside a committee of four other judges in some aspects of his investigation into the Beirut port explosion. However, the ministers did not discuss this item during the session.
• Bitar’s probe has been stalled by lawsuits against the judge by political figures and officials accused in the investigation and their political backers, who allege he has “politicized” the investigation.
Clarification: This post has been updated to reflect that after initially saying the banking secrecy law would be discussed again next week, the cabinet issued a statement saying the proposal had been approved and send to Palriament.
BEIRUT – Najib Mikati’s cabinet assured after a session on Thursday that subsidies would not be removed from bread and agreed to use $15 million dollars from Lebanon’s allocation of the International Monetary Fund’s Special Drawing Rights for wheat imports, $13 million for medicine and $60 million for maintenance of electricity infrastructure. The ministers also approved the demolition...