BEIRUT — Parliament, in its first legislative session after being elected, on Tuesday will be voting on 40 draft laws, including a law that lifts banking secrecy on some accounts, a law that would approve a $150 million World Bank loan and two laws that aim to protect the Beirut port silos against demolition.
Here’s what we know:
• A law that would lift banking secrecy is a key demand of the International Monetary Fund in its preliminary agreement with the Lebanese government signed in April. The agreement states that it is important to bring the law “in line with international standards to fight corruption and remove impediments to effective banking sector restructuring and supervision, tax administration, as well as detection and investigation of financial crimes, and asset recovery.”
• Parliament will also vote on a law that would approve a $150 million World Bank loan to Lebanon to finance its wheat imports following the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which disrupted global supply chains, leading to fears of bread shortages and panic buying in Lebanon. According to the World Bank, the loan is meant to also benefit the “displaced population and refugees in Lebanon,” which MP Salim Sayegh (Kataeb/Kesrouan) objected to saying that “half of the beneficiaries of the loan are from the Syrian refugees… Now we take loans to feed the Syrians.”
• A draft law that would organize the budgets of private schools and sets their fees will also be voted on in Tuesday’s session. It would also increase spending on public schools. Parliament will also vote on a draft law submitted by MP Ashraf Rifi (Independent/Tripoli) that would give $300 to poor families. Funding for this program, Rifi told L’Orient Today, could come from Banque du Liban, instead of using all of its reserves for subsidies. “The only subsidies that should be left are the ones related to bread and chronic diseases medicine,” Rifi said. Asked if it is better to push for the ration card program which has already been approved by cabinet, Rifi said that the money that the ration card gives is not enough and that “it is a clientelist tool from politicians, when all the sectors would need this assistance.”
• MP Hassan Mrad (Independent/West Bekaa) has also submitted a draft law that will be voted on Tuesday which would consider line 29 to be Lebanon’s maritime border with Israel, adding 1,430 square kilometers to line 23, which Lebanon is currently demanding. Line 29 intersects with the Karish gas field, onto which Israel deployed last month a floating production, storage and offloading vessel.
• Parliament will also vote on a law that would give compensation to those physically hurt from excessive violence during the Oct. 2019 nationwide protests. The law was submitted by MP Firas Hamdan (Forces of Change/South Marjayoun-Hasmaya) who was a victim of such violence during the 2019 protests.
• Lebanese Forces MP Fadi Karam has submitted a law that would “prevent any type of integration… of Syrian refugees present in Lebanon.” The matter of Syrian refugees has been a hot topic again in Lebanon in recent months as many major parties are calling for the return of these refugees.
• Two similar laws will be discussed in Parliament’s session on Tuesday, one being from Forces of Change MPs Paula Yacoubian, Yassin Yassin, Mark Daou, Michel Doueihy and Firas Hamdan, which would classify the port silos as a “national sight for Lebanon’s heritage” in order to remember the Aug. 4, 2020 port explosion. The law is similar to the draft law submitted by four Kataeb MPs, which also aims to protect the silos from demolition. In March, cabinet approved the demolition of the silos.
• Nadim Gemayel (Kataeb/Beirut II) has also submitted a draft law that will be voted on which gives the candidates for the presidential elections a deadline to run before the end of Aoun’s term in October.
• Forces of Change MPs Elias Jaradeh and Najat Aoun have also submitted a draft law that proposes parliamentary committee meetings become public, as they are now done behind closed doors. “We proposed this for the transparency of the work of Parliament, the parliamentary committees are the kitchen of the laws,” Jaradeh told L’Orient Today on Friday. “Only if there was a reason for the meetings to be secret, as some of them do have, should they be made private.”
• MPs advanced several expedited law proposals (items 11 and 12) to amend the fees and charges levied by the Lebanese government on airline operators. The current fee structure is still based on the official peg of LL1507.5 to the US dollar, while operating costs are being paid at the parallel market rate of around LL30,000 to the US dollar. For example, flight operators are charging passengers $33 in fresh dollars while paying the government LL50,000 — less than $2 at the parallel market rate — leading to a loss of revenue. According to caretaker Public Works Minister Ali Hamie, the change in fees would allow the government to generate hundreds of millions of fresh dollars.
• Parliament’s session on Tuesday will also elect seven MPs to the Supreme Council. The council, which is authorized to prosecute members of Parliament and ministers, is made up of 15 members, seven of whom are MPs, and eight judges. The elections of MPs to the Supreme Council is of particular interest to those parliamentarians concerned with the Aug. 4, 2020, port blast file and its investigation. The head of the investigation, Judge Tarek Bitar, has summoned a number of former ministers, including former Public Affairs Minister Yousef Fenianos, former Finance Minister and sitting MP Ali Hassan Khalil and former Defense Minister and sitting MP Ghazi Zeaiter, who have all so far refused to appear before Bitar. A number of parties, including the Amal Movement, headed by Parliament Speaker Berri, believe that the matter of prosecuting MPs and ministers should be removed from Bitar’s remit and handed over to the Supreme Council.
BEIRUT — Parliament, in its first legislative session after being elected, on Tuesday will be voting on 40 draft laws, including a law that lifts banking secrecy on some accounts, a law that would approve a $150 million World Bank loan and two laws that aim to protect the Beirut port silos against demolition.Here’s what we know: • A law that would lift banking secrecy is a...