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Morning Brief

Capital control discussion stalls, lira hits LL26,000, UN sounds alarm on maternal, infant health: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Here’s what happened yesterday and what to expect today, Thursday, April 21, and over the holiday weekend

Capital control discussion stalls, lira hits LL26,000, UN sounds alarm on maternal, infant health: Everything you need to know to start your Thursday

Children play on a street on the southern outskirts of Beirut. (Credit: AFP)

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The joint parliamentary committee studying the capital control law has decided to halt discussion of the law until the government’s financial rescue plan is made clearer. Yesterday, the committee’s MPs gathered in Parliament to discuss the draft. Despite being initially impeded by activists and depositors protesting on the route leading to Parliament, quorum was reached; however, the MPs decided not to hold discussions as planned. Deputy Speaker Elie Ferzli told reporters that MPs agreed to defer discussions on the capital control law until the government can explain its intentions behind an economic recovery plan that was leaked on Tuesday and the fate of depositors’ money. Within hours of Ferzli’s remarks, Premier Najib Mikati announced he had sent the financial recovery plan to Parliament. However, the controversy surrounding the plan means it is now unlikely that the draft capital control will make it out of committee level and onward to the full Parliament for approval ahead of legislative elections set to take place on May 15. Passing a capital control law is among the International Monetary Fund’s conditions for unlocking financial support for Lebanon.

The fallout of the committees’ decision yesterday and the leaked financial recovery plan of a day prior was immediately felt in the parallel currency exchange market, with the lira falling below LL26,000 to the US dollar. Even though Circular 161 which allowed commercial banks to sell unlimited dollars at the central bank’s Sayrafa rate, stabilized the currency market from mid-January through February this year, cracks are now clearly showing with exchange rate volatility creeping back in. The first rift was felt in early March when commercial banks limited selling US dollars at the Sayrafa rate by lowering their clients’ daily quotas, which caused the lira to drop by 12 percent. Moreover, the central bank’s tardiness in supplying some importers with foreign currency liquidity has forced the government to draw from its Special Drawing Rights to finance the import of several essential goods, such as wheat and medications.

A report released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) yesterday warned that the maternal death rate in Lebanon had tripled since 2019 and that children’s health is at risk. The report indicates that the increased risk is connected to Lebanon’s economic crisis, which has seen medical staff, including doctors and midwives, leave the country in droves and made transportation to and from medical facilities prohibitively expensive for many. UNICEF said that a third of children could not access health care and that the infant mortality rate had more than doubled in four provinces from the first quarter to the third quarter of 2020. The report reveals that between the years 2019 and 2021, infant mortality rose from 13.7 to 37 deaths per 1,000 live births. Moreover, the rate of childhood vaccination has declined by 31 percent, leaving hundreds of thousands of children vulnerable to preventable diseases, such as measles and pneumonia.

Sunday marks the 107th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the tragic event. Many were displaced and relocated all over the world, including to Lebanon, with many first settling in the Beirut area of Karantina as well as in Saida and Antelias. A march to commemorate the tragedy will take place on Sunday from Burj Hammoud to Antelias and is organized by the three main Armenian political parties in Lebanon: Hunchakian, Tashnag and Ramgavar. The commemoration coincides with Orthodox Easter Sunday.

In case you missed it, here’s our must-read story from yesterday: “Institute for Palestine Studies branches into art to reawaken interest in the Palestinian cause”


The Morning Brief will go on hiatus as we at L’Orient Today reduce operations over the Orthodox Easter weekend break — news permitting. We will be back with everything you need to know on Tuesday, April 26.


Want to get the Morning Brief by email? Click here to sign up.The joint parliamentary committee studying the capital control law has decided to halt discussion of the law until the government’s financial rescue plan is made clearer. Yesterday, the committee’s MPs gathered in Parliament to discuss the draft. Despite being initially impeded by activists and depositors protesting on the route...