Rear View – Lebanon in review (12 September 2021)
27 August: Parents concerned by high prices for school supplies
With the new academic year just three weeks away, many Lebanese parents are concerned about affording for textbooks and stationery.
Now-former caretaker Education Minister Tariq Al-Majzoub previously detailed a roadmap for returning to face-to-face learning. Now that a legitimate government has been formed, it is hoped that this roadmap will be implemented as soon as possible.
The hard economic conditions and collapse of the national currency will make the process of returning to school even more challenging for parents and students if temporary or sustainable solutions are not found soon. Some of the reasons parents have difficulty paying for books and stationery are fuel shortages and high insurance premiums.
Negotiations are underway for UNICEF to fund the printing and distribution of these supplies in public and private schools nationwide. Head of the Educational Center for Research and Development, Dr. George Nohra, said that there was a 99% chance of UNICEF funding being acquired after the success of the organisation’s assistance last academic year.
Dr. Nohra issued a decision last year about rotating books between students and classes in public schools to benefit from the same book more than once and to reduce printing costs. Ideally similar strategies will be once again implemented this year to ease the cost of Lebanon’s national crises on school students.
09 September: World Bank funding needed to supply Egyptian gas to Lebanon
A plan to aid Lebanon’s fuel shortage by funneling Egyptian gas through Syria and Jordan has been delayed by a lack of World Bank funding. Energy and resource ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon met in Amman this week to negotiate a deal.
The Lebanese delegation to Amman was led by Energy and Water Minister Raymond Ghajar. According to a source, the talks in Amman were very successful and productive. Ghajar claims that Lebanon needs “600 million cubic meters (21 billion cubic feet) of gas to provide 450 megawatts of electricity”.
Yet even if Lebanon is able to obtain World Bank funding for the Egyptian gas, it would still be suffering from an electricity crisis. An estimated 450 MW of electricity can be produced at Deir Ammar – a major gas powerplant in North Lebanon – in a single day, or four hours daily. There are plans to expand Deir Ammar’s output capacity to 1,100 MW, however this is still less than half of country’s actual demand at 2,800 MW.
09 September: Jordanian emergency aid shipments arrive in Lebanon
Jordan has sent a new shipment of aid to Lebanon containing 8 tonnes of food and medical supplies. It is the latest of six aid packages donated by Jordan as emergency assistance to Lebanon.
Walid Al-Hadid, the ambassador from Jordan to Lebanon, and Gen. Joseph Aoun, representative of the Lebanese Armed Forces commander, received the delivery at Beirut Rafik-Hariri International Airport.
This is the latest of six aid packages donated by the Jordanian authorities as emergency assistance to Lebanon and its army, which is being hit hard by the worst economic crisis in the country’s history. Lebanon’s military received 5.5 tonnes of medical aid from Jordan last Saturday, following Jordan’s pledge to provide assistance after the deadly Akkar Explosion back in August.
The Lebanese Army had received 19 tonnes of supplies just two days before a Jordanian plane delivered 14 tonnes of aid to Beirut.
10 September: There is a waste crisis on the horizon, says RAMCO
RAMCO, Beirut’s waste collection company, has cut operations by half due to delayed payments and the worsening fuel crisis, causing mounting piles of trash and rotting odours across the city. Waste companies nationwide are facing the same issues.
In August RAMCO warned that they could no longer operate at full capacity. Beirut residents have been asked to only discard trash between 3pm – 5am, and to only do so in the designated containers to prevent build-up.
“As a company we’ve reached a point of total collapse in our operations due to the economic crisis and the pound to dollar exchange rates. It’s crippled our ability to work in Beirut and the other areas we cover, like Metn and Kesrouan,” RAMCO director Walid Bou Saad told The Daily Star. “Our contract is in dollars but today we’re being paid by cheques and our costs have risen 1,200 percent for operation and maintenance, and 500 percent for salaries.”
The method of being paid by cheque significantly reduces the value of government payments. “If I say I need $10 million and they’re given as a cheque, they become $1.5 million,” Bou Saad said. “If we get cheques, we can close some of our debts to the banks, but we can’t withdraw it as cash – we can only take out $2,000 a month.”
Bou Saad explained that unresponsiveness from the Beirut Municipality is delaying any solution to this escalating problem.
“Our problems can be solved by the municipality – we’re not asking for charity; it’s all in the contract and these are our rights. I don’t know how much longer we can last – at the end of this month, if money doesn’t come into the account, I can’t pay the workers and they will leave.”
10 September: Lebanon finally forms a government
After 13 months of political gridlock that inflamed catastrophic nationwide economic and financial crises, Lebanon has appointed a new Cabinet.
In the presence of Speaker Nabih Berri, President Michel Aoun and Prime Minister Najib Mikati signed a decree appointing the new Cabinet to be led by Mikati himself.
Mikati hopes the announcement will prevent the total collapse of the country and restore prosperity. It comes after a year of local and regional mediation efforts, combined with mounting pressure from France and the United States, which pushed Lebanon’s leaders to form the first fully functioning government in thirteen months.
Mikati’s new government includes four judges and only one woman, in contrast to the previous Cabinet, which had six female Ministers.
The new Cabinet Ministers and their political affiliations are as follows:
Deputy Prime Minister – Saade Shami (affiliated with the Syrian Social Nationalist Party, allied with Hezbollah)
Health Minister – Firas Abiad (affiliated with former PM Saad Hariri & director of Rafik Hariri University Hospital)
Education Minister – Abbas Al-Halabi (affiliated with Walid Jumblatt, head of the Progressive Socialist Part)
Energy Minister – Walid Fayyad (affiliated with President Aoun)
Finance Minister – Youssef Khalil (head of the Amal Movement political party, Director of Financial Operations at the Lebanese Central Bank)
Economy Minister – Amin Salam (affiliated with PM-designate Mikati)
Foreign Affairs Minister – Abdallah Bouhabib (affiliated with President Aoun, former Lebanese Ambassador to the US)
Defence Minister – Maurice Slim (chosen by President Aoun)
Justice Minister – Henry Khoury (affiliated with President Aoun & former head of the state administrative council)
Interior Minister – Bassam Al-Malawi (affiliated with PM-designate Mikati & former head of the North Lebanon Criminal Court)
Labor Minister – Mustafa Bayram (chosen by Amal Movement)
Environment Minister – Nasser Yassin (AUB professor of policy and planning)
Administrative Reform Minister – Najla Riachi (Independent)
Culture Minister – Mohammed Mortada (affiliated with Hezbollah)
Communications Minister – Jonny Korm (chosen by Marada political party)
Tourism Minister – Walid Nassar (chosen by President Aoun)
Agriculture Minister – Abbas Hajj Hassan (chosen by Hezbollah)
Public Works and Transport Minister – Ali Hamiya (chosen by Hezbollah)
Social Affairs Minister – Hector Hajjar (chosen by President Aoun)
Minister of the Displaced – Issam Sharafeddine (chosen by Talal Arslan of the Lebanese Democratic Party)
Sports and Youth Minister – George Kallas (Independent)
Information Minister – George Kordahi (chosen by Marada)
Industry Minister – George Boujikian (chosen by Tashnag political party)
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