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Rear View – Lebanon in review (18 April 2021)

Rear View – Lebanon in review (18 April 2021)

5 April: Opposition wants joint election push to oust elite

A coalition of Lebanese civil society groups and parties called for a unified electoral bloc to try to defeat traditional leaders in 2022 polls. The joint appeal by 16 groups, including the National Bloc, Beirut Madinati and Mintishreen, marks the most concerted effort yet towards forming an opposition umbrella to take on the ruling elite in parliamentary elections scheduled for May 2022.

“We are calling on all forces of change and the different revolutionary groups…to unify their ranks and work together towards forming the widest possible opposition bloc,” spokesperson Nada Sehnaoui said.

“Together, we will develop a joint plan for our participation in parliamentary polls through joint opposition lists,” she told a Beirut press conference held at the National Bloc’s headquarters.

“We don’t have time to waste,” Sehnaoui said.

14 April: French group re-enters competition to rebuild the port 

French container shipping group CMA CGM resubmitted its offer to rebuild Beirut’s blast in less than three years, for a fee of between USD$400 to 600 million, a staggering $USD6.5 lower than a German consortium.

CMA CGM which is controlled by the French Saade family, which traces its roots to Lebanon, has been actively involved in the port rejuvenation program since the tragic 4 August 2020 blast. The explosion flattened much of the port as well as a large segment of the city, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands more.

A German consortium including Hamburg Port Consulting and real estate company Colliers International, also submitted a proposal to rebuild Beirut Port. Chinese shipping companies, and Dubai’s DP World have been eyeing the huge project too.

The German proposal, amounts to a staggering $7.2 billion but included a bold plan to move the port area away from the city centre.

15 April: Hariri on Russia ti invest in Lebanon 

Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri called on Russia to invest in Lebanon as mutual trade drops up to 38%, during a meeting with Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin in Moscow and phone talks with President Vladimir Putin.

Hariri’s assembly with Mishustin came during a working visit to Moscow, where he arrived Wednesday evening. He told Mishustin that Lebanon needs foreign investments once the country’s political and economic problems are solved.

“As you know the difficulties in Lebanon are connected to the fact that, so far, we have not been able to form a government that would undertake comprehensive reforms… As soon as it happens, we will need external assistance to implement these reforms…we would like to count on investment from Russian companies in such areas as energy, infrastructure, transport,” Hariri said.

Mishustin replied: “We would like to give a new impulse to our trade and economic cooperation…our mutual trade has decreased by 28 percent, even 38 percent, to about $320 million we have now.”

15 April: Judge releases 6 people involved in port blast 

The judge leading the investigation into last year’s massive blast at Beirut’s port, Tarek al-Bitar, ordered the release of six people, including security officers, who had been detained for months.

It was not immediately clear what triggered the release of the men, who include an officer who had written a detailed warning to top officials prior to the explosion about the dangers of the material stored at the port.

According to the state-run National News Agency, those discharged were: Head of the port’s State Security office Major Joseph Naddaf who sent the warning, Common Security officer Major Charbel Fawaz, Sergeant Majors Elias Chahine, and Khaled al-Khari in addition to Johnny Gerges and Mikhael al-Murr.

The judge added that 19 people are still being held in the case. Among those who are still held are the head of the customs department and his predecessor as well as the port’s director general.

16 April: Port victims still awaiting justice 

After 8 months of rejections by President Aoun to grant him a meeting, Peter Abou Saab, the brother of one of the firefighters killed in the blast, uploaded a video message on social media directed at the President.

In the video Mr. Saab’s main questions to the President are:

  1. Who was responsible?
  2. Why has nothing been done yet?

He finished his video by saying: “Justice on earth will be served someday since all of you politicians don’t believe in God’s justice.”

16 April: Lebanon’s first electric car 

Lebanon is launching its first electric car billed as cheap and green – but sceptics say subsidised power will count for little in a flat economy reliant on fossil fuels and struggling to attract investment into renewable energy.

Designed by Lebanon’s EV Electra, the coupe-style ‘Rise’ is the country’s first foray into the electric car market, a fast-growing sector that promises to lower planet-warming emissions.

Costing USD$30,000, the Rise reaches 180km an hour and goes on sale in Lebanon and Europe in late 2021, pending certification.

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