Ramadan curfew, milk shortages, Civil War anniversary: Everything you need to know to start your Monday

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https://mail.google.com-A group of German private companies has presented a proposal to redevelop the Beirut port. (Credit: Anwar Amro/AFP)

A nighttime curfew applicable throughout the month of Ramadan starts today. The curfew from 9:30 p.m. until 5 a.m. will begin this evening with exceptions afforded to supermarkets and restaurants, which will be permitted to provide delivery services around the clock, the Higher Defense Council announced on Friday. The decision falls short of stricter recommendations from the national COVID-19 committee, which called for a curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Just like previous curfews, only those benefiting from an exception — such as doctors, pharmacists and journalists — or having requested a special permit will be able to move around. The ninth batch of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, containing 46,800 doses, arrived in Lebanon on Saturday night, the Health Ministry announced. However, the slow inoculation rollout by the ministry has opened the door for the private sector and political initiatives to provide vaccines.

German companies have presented a $5 billion Beirut port redevelopment proposal, but its realization is contingent on reforms. A group of German private companies, accompanied by Lebanese and German officials, on Friday unveiled a plan to rebuild the Beirut port area, which was destroyed by the Aug. 4 explosion. The proposed plan entails not only rebuilding the port itself but also developing a large public park, residential and business buildings, and beach areas. This investment would generate some $2.5 billion in profits, the delegation said. However, the German ambassador to Lebanon has stressed that any international financing for the project would be contingent upon political and financial reforms.

The parliamentary Women and Children’s Committee meets today to discuss baby milk shortages, as fears over acute food insecurity loom. Committee head Inaya Ezzeddine told L’Orient Today that “we can’t allow kids to become victims” of malnutrition caused by the economic crisis, adding that her committee will assess the gravity of the milk shortage. Ezzeddine says the Economy Ministry informed her that Banque du Liban is delaying milk imports due to a lack of foreign currency liquidity. Ezzeddine will also chair a meeting with a broader group of parliamentarians in the afternoon to discuss food insecurity. The latest survey by the Central Administration of Statistics revealed that the cost of foodstuffs more than quadrupled between February 2020 and February 2021. In addition, a recent report from the World Food Program and the Food and Agriculture Organization states that acute food insecurity in Lebanon is likely to rise from March to July due to sky-high inflation and the deterioration of the lira.

Lines formed at bakeries after they halted distribution of bread to shops and supermarkets. Following the latest decrease in the price of bread, bakeries decided to only sell bread directly to customers. Bread distributors have protested in Tripoli, claiming that the price set by the Economy Ministry does not reflect production costs. Having hiked the price of a bread loaf four times between January and March, the ministry has decreased the price twice since March 31, citing an increase in the wheat subsidy and a slight appreciation of the national currency’s value in the parallel market. Meanwhile, queues continue to form at gas stations as suppliers face delays in fuel import payments, while gas stations in several parts of the country have closed amid shortages.

Banque du Liban has submitted an updated list of information requested by auditing firm Alvarez & Marsal, the bank said on Friday. The submission followed a series of conflicting statements regarding the status of the audit and a meeting between representatives from BDL, the Finance Ministry and Alvarez & Marsal. When contacted by L’Orient Today, neither the Finance Ministry nor the central bank specified whether all the missing data had now been provided. More than three months have passed since Parliament voted in favor of lifting banking secrecy on all accounts available at BDL and other public institutions for one year, eliminating the purported main obstacle to a forensic audit of these bodies.

Parliament’s Finance and Budget Committee is set to meet today to discuss a potential change in the structure of the Special Investigation Commission. The SIC is an independent legal entity at Banque du Liban and is responsible for investigating suspicious transactions and fighting money laundering. The commission is currently chaired by BDL Gov. Riad Salameh and includes three members: the head of the Banking Control Commission, a member picked by the cabinet and a judge appointed by the Higher Banking Commission. Hezbollah MPs have proposed a law to amend the structure, replacing the chair with a judge suggested by the Higher Judicial Council, while SIC’s members would include a BDL vice governor, the head of the BCC, a member picked by the cabinet and an additional member chosen by MPs, leaving Salameh off the board.

Tuesday marks the 46th anniversary of the start of the Civil War. The 15-year conflict saw some 150,000 deaths, tens of thousands disappeared and displaced, and a wave of immigrants fleeing the bloodshed. The end of the conflict brought an amnesty for militia leaders, who went on to become the country’s political leaders. Groups will gather Tuesday at 4 p.m. in city squares in commemoration.

 

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