Caretaker Prime Minister Meets with IMF, Regional Leaders According to Naharnet, “Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati held meetings Monday in Sharm el-Sheikh with International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and Pakistani PM Shehbaz Sharif.” [Naharnet]
Mass Return of Refugees from Lebanon to Syria According to AP News, “Scores of Syrian refugees headed home Saturday from eastern Lebanon in the second convoy in less than two weeks as Beirut attempts to organize a mass refugee return to the war-torn country. Lebanon’s state-run National News Agency said the ‘voluntary return’ Saturday included 330 Syrians who left from the eastern Bekaa Valley to Syria’s western Qalamoun region.” [AP News]
Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Hosts Forum on Taif Agreement According to the National, “Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Lebanon Walid bin Abdullah Bukhari organised a forum at the Unesco Palace in Beirut on the 33rd anniversary of the conclusion of the Taif Agreement, which ended 15 years of civil war in Lebanon, under Arab and international sponsorship . . . ‘We desperately need to embody the formula of co-existence that was addressed by the Taif Agreement, especially with regard to the preservation of Lebanon’s identity and Arab belonging,’ Mr Bukhari said. The forum on Saturday was attended by 1,000 political, business and academic figures.” [The National]
‘Surprise’ Candidate May Emerge in Upcoming Presidential Election Session According to Naharnet, “As several Free Patriotic Movement lawmakers announced that their parliamentary bloc will not cast blank votes in Thursday’s presidential election session, an independent MP told ad-Diyar newspaper that a ‘surprise’ candidate will be voted for in the session. Sources close to Hezbollah meanwhile told Asharq al-Awsat daily that they rule out any breakthrough in the presidential file before the end of the year, seeing as ‘things are linked to domestic and foreign circumstances’.” [Naharnet]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
The Policy Initiative Distorted Social Contract: The Dangerous Trajectory of Social Protection Systems in Lebanon Sami ZoughaibZoughaib writes, “As Lebanon’s financial and economic crises deepen, the severe shortcomings in the country’s formal social protection system have left the population increasingly abandoned and vulnerable. Capitalizing on this grim reality, the political elites have doubled down on their regime of social privileges, aiding the select at the disadvantage of the rest. They activated informal patronage networks for their loyalists and privileged select civil servants, particularly the military. The large majority of the country that is disenfranchised, those without political significance, are left to suffer. Left behind, more and more people have sought to flee Lebanon through people-smuggling sea routes, a tragic option that has left hundreds dead so far. The failure of authorities to respond seriously to the social disaster cannot be justified with the excuses of financial constraints or technical ineptitude. The central bank generously spent from its reserves an amount equivalent to the current size of the economy (~$20 billion) on regressive subsidies, quixotic attempts to prop up the exchange rate, and transfers of capital abroad. The National Social Protection Strategy, a document that details how the country can move beyond the current system of social privileges and onto one of social protection rights, was further delayed by the Mikati government.”
AP News Eastern Mediterranean: A Natural Gas Hub Worth Exploring – Analysis Dr Md. Muddassir QuamarDr. Quamar writes, “The international energy market has witnessed serious upheavals since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Europe, which significantly depended on Russia for its energy security, has been struggling to find alternative sources. The sanctions on Russia’s oil industry by the United States (US) and the European Union (EU) has led to serious churn in the global energy supplies, already seething with shortages due to sanctions on Iran and Venezuela, the civil war in Libya, and the debilitating impact of Covid-19 on demands. This has led to rise in global energy prices, making the post-pandemic economic recovery even more daunting, including in the US and European countries. The OPEC+ decision on production cuts taken on 5 October 2022, therefore, provoked sharp reaction from President Joe Biden who blamed Saudi Arabia, warning it of “consequences” for siding with Russia. The Kingdom, on the other hand, responded by underlining its longstanding commitments to stability of the global energy market and denied political manoeuvring. While the geopolitical tensions over the global energy production and supplies are unlikely to reduce anytime soon, the existing situation has underlined the need for finding alternative sources of energy. The quest for alternatives has also been accelerated by the growing international concern over global warming and environmental degradation. The focus is on finding alternatives both in terms of clean and renewable sources and newer producers and suppliers.”
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.