Lebanon Daily News Brief 9/17/2021
Gasoline Prices Raised 37 Percent
Today Lebanon’s energy minister raised gasoline prices by more than 37 percent. The price raise does not fully lift the subsidy, but may be the last step before the subsidy is removed completely. While subsidies decrease, Lebanon’s government introduced a cash card system last month for over 500,000 families in effort to help reduce the sting of price raises. [Reuters]
New Finance Minister Renews BDL Forensic Audit
Today Lebanon’s new finance minister signed a government contract with Alvarez & Marsal, renewing the firm’s deal to conduct a forensic audit of the central bank. The forensic audit of Banque du Liban is an essential demand by the International Monetary Fund and international donors. [AP]
Ministerial Policy Statement Approved
Following three committee meetings over the statement’s text, Prime Minister Najib Miqati’s cabinet unanimously approved a ministerial policy statement yesterday. Important items include immediate negotiations with the IMF and stressing cooperation in the Beirut Port blast investigation. [Naharnet] Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for a plenary session to be held on Monday to review the statement and to vote on granting confidence to the government. [Naharnet]
Lebanon Receives $1.139 Billion in SDRs from IMF
Lebanon’s finance ministry announced today that it has been informed that $1.39 billion in Special Drawing Rights from the IMF has been deposited into its Central Bank account. [LBCI]
OPINION & ANALYSIS
What Should be the Priorities for the Miqati Government?
AbiNader writes, “To address corruption, the core issues are completing an independent and transparent investigation of the Beirut Port explosion, implementing the capital controls law passed by the Parliament to regulate currency transfers, and use existing laws to work with other countries to pursue funds spirited out of the country around the October 17, 2019 demonstrations. That’s a lot in eight months but the process has already started and will be helped by immunity for whistleblowers, a draft law already in Parliament’s hands. The ministerial statement also calls for a complete investigation of the Beirut Port blast but does not spell out by whom or a timeframe, while emphasizing that immunities from prosecution will follow existing law – not altogether reassuring.”
The Country Where the Banks Ran Out of Money
Ibish writes, “After 13 months of foundering under caretaker prime ministers, Lebanon finally has a government. That is very good news for a country suffering from the effects of economic collapse, political intransigence, financial malfeasance and the interference of foreign powers…Fundamentally, though, nothing has changed. For the IMF and the donor community to provide fresh funds, Lebanon will be required to make significant concessions on accountability and transparency, among other conditions. It should at the least create a safety net for the mass of Lebanese who have now sunk into dire poverty so they won’t be dependent on increasingly rare handouts.”
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.