L’Orient-Le Jour -Protesters again blocked thoroughfares with burning tires on Monday evening as the lira free fall continued. (Credit: Hussam Shbaro)
The lira fell to another record low, around LL13,500 to the dollar, sparking roadblock protests in areas across Lebanon. With many exchange shops closed and others trading at massive spreads to maximize profits, uncertainty in the rate — and therefore prices — prompted some shops to close their doors, while some distributors stopped accepting orders. It also prompted a rash of road closures across the country, including in Beirut, Tripoli and the Bekaa. The lira has now lost more than 88 percent of its value since the financial crisis began.
The head of the national COVID-19 vaccination committee said Lebanon would not use the AstraZeneca inoculation until its “safety is fully and definitively confirmed.” Several other countries, including France and Germany, have suspended use of the vaccine following reports of side effects. Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said it had granted 30 private companies permission to acquire inoculations in addition to the state’s efforts, potentially marking a partial privatization of Lebanon’s vaccination campaign. Only about 105,000 doses have been administered so far, according to the Impact platform.
The environmental clean-up continued on Lebanon’s southern shoreline following last month’s oil spill off the coast of occupied Palestine. Around 75 volunteers from civil and environmental associations, the Saida municipality and a private contracting company yesterday worked to remove black tar from beaches, the National News Agency reported. A municipal council member thanked volunteers for “quickly responding to the call,” saying that “bags of tar collected will be sent to the relevant ministries and that the beach cleaning process will be completed within the coming days.”
MPs will meet in committee today to discuss recovering “stolen” funds and funding for electricity. The energy minister warned last week that Lebanon was nearing another blackout if lawmakers do not approve a treasury advance of LL1.5 trillion to cover fuel purchases and other costs for state-run Électricité du Liban through 2021. Meanwhile, residents of the Bekaa Valley complained of blackouts as electrical workers went on strike over payment issues. And in Tripoli, disgruntled protesters raided the local EDL office, chanting slogans denouncing corruption in the sector. MPs opposed to fully funding EDL cite such corruption, along with waste and a failure to reform, with one saying that if Parliament approves the advance, “the money will be tossed into the sea.”