Hariri and Aoun met yesterday and are set to meet again on Monday. (Credit: AFP/HO/Dalati and Nohra)
Saad Hariri met with Michel Aoun in a bid to break the monthslong government deadlock, but with no concrete results. After trading barbs on social media and Lebanese airwaves, the premier-designate and president held a meeting yesterday at the Presidential Palace to discuss government proposals. Less than an hour after entering the meeting, Hariri walked out to address the country, describing the talks “as an opportunity” to form a cabinet that can work with the IMF and international community to restore confidence in Lebanon. The two men are set to meet again on Monday, he said, for what would be their 18th get-together since Hariri was nominated to be the next prime minister nearly five months ago. Later in the evening, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, an ally of the president, urged Hariri to include “all” political parties in his cabinet, saying a solely technocratic government would be unable to implement the reforms needed. Meanwhile, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that Paris’ approach toward the Lebanese crisis will “clearly” have to change in the coming weeks.
Pharmacies across Lebanon pulled down their shutters as part of a nationwide strike to protest worsening economic conditions. Although not sanctioned by the syndicate, scores of pharmacies in Koura, Metn, Akkar, Sur, Kesrouan and Beirut, among other locales, took part in the protest in the hopes of achieving two principal demands: an increase to their profit margins and a solution to ongoing medicine shortages. Profit margins, which top out at 22 percent for certain medicines, are no longer sustainable amid the collapse of the lira, they said. Shortages, meanwhile, as a result of red tape and dwindling foreign currencies, have resulted in empty shelves, threatening the well-being of patients.
Truck owners responsible for moving goods to and from Beirut’s port went on an open-ended strike. The strike will paralyze the transportation of goods to and from the port, a spokesperson for the syndicate said. In a press conference, the group said that work won’t resume unless they are paid in dollars instead of lira in amounts that are unadjusted for the currency’s collapse. Meanwhile, the Association of Primary School Teachers also announced a strike from Friday until Sunday.
A local pharma company will begin importing the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine next week. MP Nicolas Nahas, who sits on the board of Pharmaline’s parent company, told L’Orient Today that the company has ordered 1 million doses of the Russian-made vaccine. The first batch of 50,000 is set to arrive on Thursday, a Health Ministry spokesperson said, with further shipments expected weekly. The vaccines will only be available for purchase by private institutions such as companies, syndicates or NGOs to be distributed for free to their constituencies. The disbursement of the vaccines will be done in coordination with the Health Ministry, he said. Lebanon has experienced an extremely slow vaccine rollout, mired with controversy, having administered only about 130,000 doses since the first inoculations arrived over a month ago.
Various groups have called for a protest today to decry deteriorating living conditions amid the political impasse. The march will begin in front of the Energy Ministry at 4 p.m. before making its way to Riad al-Solh Square in downtown Beirut. Intermittent protests and roadblocks have rocked Lebanon over the past two weeks as the exchange rate hit LL15,000 to the dollar before retreating to below LL12,000 on Thursday. The collapsing currency wrought havoc, with queues forming at gas stations and runs on grocery stores. Many stores shut their doors either in protest over the lira’s slide or as a result of their inability to properly price items.