Lebanon Daily News Brief 1/31/2022
President Aoun Promises BDL Audit
President Michel Aoun issued a statement promising that a forensic audit will be conducted into the central bank and criticized ‘deliberate procrastination’ by BDL in complying with the data requests of Alvarez and Marsal (A&M), the restructuring consultancy conducting the audit. The BDL responded with a statement of its own, claiming that the required data was provided, “in a manner that doesn’t conflict with the law and international standards.” [Reuters]
Vatican Representative Visits Lebanon
Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States, is visiting Lebanon this week, meeting with Lebanese political leaders as well as religious leaders conveying the messages and ‘worries’ of Pope Francis. [The961]
Cabinet Approves Public Sector Social Aid, Includes Pensioners
The Cabinet approved an increase of social contributions for the public sector as well as for institutions of social welfare, which will amount to 400 billion Lebanese pounds. According to Naharnet, “A social contribution of 75% of the salary basis will be given for the public sector, as well as the pensioners.” There was neither any agreement regarding the electricity treasury loan nor for the issue of the customs dollar. [Naharnet]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
Are We Facing The Fading Future Of The Future Movement?
AbiNader writes, “in May 2021, the World Bank noted that Lebanon has an outdated and fragmented procurement system and especially lacks the adequate technology to monitor procurement, exposing the public sector to high risks of corruption. While some of the issues were addressed in the two laws, they both lack enforcement mechanisms. In fact, a World Bank study indicated that Lebanon did not at all meet even 57% of the 210 specific criteria used in the assessment and partially met only another 34%. And, as reported by the Byblos Bank Economic Research Department, ‘it found major shortcomings in the system’s regulatory, institution and operational frameworks, and considered that there is considerable room for improving the accountability, integrity, and transparency criteria.’ What does the Future Movement and Saad Hariri’s resignation have to do with all of this? Consider the sectarian divisions of Lebanon’s government, which rules by coalition as is the case in most parliamentary systems. The absence of members affiliated with the Future Movement leaves Hezbollah and its allies with fewer obstacles to imposing their will on parliament. On the flip side, if in the coming election Future holds its seats as part of an opposition coalition, even the slightest shift of 10-15 seats would dull the edge that Hezbollah, the Amal Movement, and their allies have to block vital reform initiatives.
A Shift In The Political Landscape
Ibrahim JouhariJouhari writes, “Former PM Saad Hariri announced the suspension of his personal and political party’s participation in Lebanese political life in an emotional address. The former PM explained that despite his many efforts to compromise, some are unwilling to let the country move forward. He stressed that this negative trend has been amplified by a growing Iranian hegemony, in a tumultuous regional dynamic, with the international community’s lack of decisiveness . . . On the other hand, many other Sunni figures and groups, especially from the alternative parties that grew after the 17th of October popular movement, now have a golden opportunity to pick up the pieces and prove themselves capable of filling part of the void left by Future Movement. However, the window of opportunity is closing fast, and these groups need to finalize a lot of organizational efforts and aggregation to prove that they are a viable alternative and start attracting part of the orphaned FM Sunni supporters.”
Lebanon’s Bahaa Rafik Al-Hariri Says He Will Continue His Father’s Journey
Arab News writes, “Bahaa, 55, who has not held public office before and largely kept away from politics, said in a recorded speech sent to news outlets, ‘First of all, it must be emphasized that neither our religion, nor our morals, nor our upbringing, we, the sons of Martyr Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, allow us to abandon our responsibility and we put all our capabilities for the sake of Lebanon’s renaissance, Lebanon the message, Lebanon the symbol, Lebanon the homeland . . . We learned that: We are the people of moderation, not extremism; We are the people of reconstruction, not collapse; We are people of citizenship, not discrimination; We are the people of sovereignty, not dependence; We are the people of the Arab depth; The son of the martyr Rafik Hariri will not leave Lebanon, we are with you and very soon we will show you. Long live free and independent Lebanon’.”
Decrypting the State
Tayara writes, “In March–April 2020, the Lebanese Central Inspection Agencylaunched IMPACT, or the Inter-Ministerial and Municipal Platform for Assessment, Coordination, and Tracking. IMPACT is an e-governance platform—the first of its kind in Lebanon—that caters to citizens, government employees, and nongovernmental organizations . . . IMPACT is a significantly beneficial multipurpose digital tool. The platform pushes forward interministerial collaboration as well as close cooperation between the central government and local authorities. The platform is also a valuable decentralization tool that should be used more by the government. The transparency of the data collected and availability on the website enables citizens to take on accountability roles, and the data that is aimed at governing bodies enhances these bodies’ decision making. Digitizing governmental processes can help reduce corruption, consolidate development efforts, and help reform the public administration. This aligns with the three main roles of the Central Inspection Agency—oversight, guidance, and development.
World Politics Review
Biden Is Rightsizing U.S. Ambitions in the Middle East
Laipson writes, “Assessing the Biden administration’s performance in the Middle East at the one-year mark requires some careful metrics. Should the benchmark be a comparison to the turbulent Trump years, or to earlier times when U.S. diplomacy was defining the regional agenda and, on occasion, making a meaningful contribution to achieving peace? Should it prioritize the possibility that people in the region, who once resented the effects of too much U.S. power, now fear its absence, or the emerging consensus in Washington that the U.S. has more urgent strategic challenges to attend to elsewhere? Biden administration officials talk in pragmatic terms about the Middle East, and many observers in the U.S. foreign policy community applaud the effort to set achievable goals, without grandiose ambition. Bret McGurk, the Biden team’s point man on the Middle East who has now served in four presidential administrations, is quick to acknowledge that for decades, the U.S. has overcommitted and overpromised in the region.”
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in these articles are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the American Task Force on Lebanon, a non-profit, nonpartisan leadership organization of Lebanese-Americans.