Morning brief


The Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut will hold a three-day digital conference on the reconstruction of neighborhoods hit by the Beirut port explosion. (Credit: AFP)

Lebanon’s Parliament will meet at 1:30 p.m. today, with the main item on its agenda being approval of a $246 million World Bank loan. The majority of funds will go to set up a cash assistance program for an estimated 147,000 vulnerable households for one year via prepaid bank cards. While the assistance is sorely needed, with about half of the Lebanese population now estimated to be living in poverty, the deal has been controversial because the assistance would be paid out to the recipients in lira at a rate of LL6,240, considerably lower than the market rate, which stood at LL10,800 as of Thursday, while the dollars would remain with the central bank.

An emergency proposal by MP Ali Hassan Khalil to give an additional payment of LL1 million a month for six months to soldiers and members of various security agencies is also likely to be discussed by Parliament. The proposal comes after army commander Joseph Aoun said in a speech that soldiers were struggling and going hungry. Outgoing Interior Minister Mohamed Fehmi has since said that security forces are “drained” and unable to perform 90 percent of their duties. Meanwhile, other groups are jostling to be included in the proposed payout. The mayor of Ghobeiry, Maan Khalil, called for municipal police officers to be given the payment as well, while others questioned why the payments should not be extended to health and education workers. Meanwhile, the proposal has drawn pushback from economists, who have pointed out that it would exacerbate the vicious cycle of inflation by flooding the market with more lira.

The caretaker energy minister said Lebanon is “heading toward a blackout” unless Parliament approves an advance payment to Électricité du Liban. Speaking after a meeting with President Michel Aoun, Raymond Ghajar said the country might reach “total darkness at the end of this month” with negative repercussions for food security, health and public safety. Even before the country’s financial crisis, EDL was only supplying 60 percent of the country’s power demand, with the gap largely filled by diesel generators. But the minister noted that diesel generators could not supply electricity 24 hours a day and that an increased reliance on generators would also require dollars for diesel imports. Free Patriotic Movement MPs last week asked for an urgent law to be passed granting EDL LL1.5 trillion, mostly to import fuel.

Multiple groups have announced plans for protests Friday in conjunction with the Parliamentary meeting. Apart from the Association of Public Administration Employees, which has announced plans for a strike Friday, contracted primary school teachers and parents of students studying abroad are planning to protest outside of the meeting, while activist groups formed during the Oct. 17 uprising have called for a march from the Interior Ministry in Sanayeh to Parliament. Meanwhile, the army and security forces have announced that roads will be closed and extra security measures in place in the area surrounding UNESCO Palace, where Parliament will meet.

The Order of Engineers and Architects of Beirut is organizing a three-day digital conference on the reconstruction of neighborhoods hit by the Beirut port explosion. Sessions, which will run from Friday through Sunday, will cover transportation, housing policies, the future of the Beirut port, heritage legislation and a master plan for reconstruction of the damaged neighborhoods. In October, the OEA released a survey showing that out of 2,509 buildings surveyed in the area surrounding Beirut port, 323, including 51 heritage buildings, were at risk of full or partial collapse. Some $2.58 billion in international funding to assist with post-explosion rebuilding and recovery costs remains largely contingent on state reforms, starting with the formation of a new government.



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