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Three Lebanese Forces MPs called for an investigation into the alleged “illegal operations” of Hezbollah-run micro-lender Al-Qard Al-Hasan. MPs Antoine Habchi, Fadi Karam and Saeed Asmar, in a request submitted to the judiciary and seen by L’Orient Today, accused the largest local microcredit organization — sanctioned by the US Treasury for its Hezbollah ties — of making “some of the country's financial institutions” susceptible to sanctions. The collapse of the traditional banking sector in Lebanon, which has been in crisis for more than three years, has made Al-Qard Al-Hasan an attractive lending option, servicing more than 200,000 borrowers across 30 branches across the country which employ around 500 people. The microcredit organization, however, operates completely outside the financial system.
Electricité du Liban (EDL) has scheduled a country-wide inspection on Monday of network encroachments targeting more than a quarter of electric cable outlets. The state electricity supplier is scheduled to begin making rounds of 216 cable outlets on a total of 800 boxes installed throughout the country on Monday morning, accompanied by Lebanese Army and Internal Security Forces personnel. EDL listed the removal of illegal connections to its network as a pre-condition for upgrading to the next phase of a plan aiming to boost their coverage until meeting almost half of Lebanon’s pre-crisis demand — which, since the start of the year, has gone from a fuel shortage forced-shutdown followed by 250 then 450 megawatts, or up to four hours per day. The upgrade to a third phase of power generation, previously announced at 585 megawatts, will apply “only at the level of cable outlets where there are no encroachments,” EDL added. Electricity sector reforms — including an already enacted update to tariffs and the still pending appointment of an independent electric authority — are demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to respectively unlock a multi-billion dollar aid package and finance the import of Egyptian gas and Jordanian electricity to Lebanon.
General Security chief Abbas Ibrahim’s mandate ended yesterday after the country’s executive vacuum hampered attempts to extend it. “Retirement and inaction are not on the agenda,” Ibrahim said before leaving office, entrusting acting director, Elias Baysari, as “the best placed to watch over General Security.” Several ministers said after Monday’s cabinet meeting that an extension to Ibrahim’s mandate would require an intervention from Parliament allowing him to stay beyond the age of civil servants’ mandatory retirement. A boycott by several MPs, considering Parliament can only act as an electoral college until the end of the presidential vacuum, however, prevents holding legislative sessions — during which such an amendment would take place — until a president is elected. “The status quo is unsustainable,” the UN-founded International Support Group for Lebanon said in a statement yesterday expressing concern over the presidential vacuum, noting that it is “paralyzing the state at all levels.”
Employees of state-owned telecoms operators Alfa and Touch threatened to “take an appropriate decision” if the companies fail to meet their demand for salary adjustments. The employees’ statement cites “recent financial decisions” as motivating their renewed call for salaries “at their real value in the market,” days after the start of dollarized pricing in supermarkets and the increase of the central bank Sayrafa rate. Mobile telecom employees have repeatedly held prolonged strikes demanding improved compensation.
Clashes, which broke out Wednesday and resumed yesterday, in the Ain al-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Saida, southern Lebanon, have left one person dead and nine others injured. The armed clashes began as a personal dispute between a Fatah movement official and Islamist forces belonging to the Ward family, L’Orient Today’s correspondent in the area reported. A member of Fatah died in the clashes Wednesday night, which also injured seven others. Scuffles continued yesterday morning and evening, causing two additional injuries. The UN's Palestinian refugees agency, UNRWA, yesterday said that it will continue to suspend services in the Ain al-Hilweh camp through Friday, including clinic visits and schools. Schools and universities close to the camp also shut their doors Thursday to “preserve the safety of students.”
In case you missed it, here’s our must-read article from yesterday: "'Dollars or Lebanese lira, it’s the same thing. Prices are still just as high'"
Compiled by Abbas Mahfouz