Rear View – Lebanon in review (25 April 2021)
21 April: Schools in Lebanon to reopen after three-months
More than 3 months after their closure in accordance with coronavirus prevention measures, schools in Lebanon will reopen on Wednesday 28th April 2021.
The students will be taught under a blended learning approach in a mixture of face-to-face teaching and online learning classes, according to Caretaker Education Minister Tarek Majzoub, who made the announcement last week.
“The harsh economic conditions have affected everyone. Therefore we must cooperate to save the academic year,” Majzoub said. Therefore, the curriculum has been adapted to take into consideration the unprecedented teaching restrictions of the last year.
Private education unions and the syndicate of teachers are aiming to cancel intermediate exams and adopt marks based on final tests taken at school.
22 April: Hariri’s Visits Pope Seeking Divine Intervention
Pope Francis urged all Lebanese political leaders to “urgently commit themselves to the benefit of the nation,” as the country endures a series of crises and disagreements that have prevented the formation of a government.
“This is a message to all Lebanese and all parties that we have to hurry up in the formation of a government,” Hariri told Lebanese reporters traveling with him after the 30-minute audience. “The pope sees Lebanon as a message of neutrality and coexistence.”
Hariri’s visit to the Vatican comes as Lebanon is experiencing its worst economic and financial crisis in its modern history following decades of widespread corruption. Since late 2019, the local currency has lost 90% of its value, and more than half of the country’s population now lives in poverty, according to the World Bank.
Hariri has not been able to form a Cabinet six months after he was chosen for the prime minister’s post amid deep disagreements between him and President Michel Aoun.
One of the main points of difference includes Aoun’s rejection of Hariri’s plan to choose some Christian members of the new government.
23 April: Saudi Arabia Bans Lebanese Imports After Drug Find
Saudi Arabia announced a ban on imports of fruits and vegetables valued at more than US$24 million from Lebanon of Friday, after amphetamine pills were found smuggled in a pomegranate shipment. The ban will have a devastating impact on the Lebanese economy.
Shortly after the Saudi statement, Greek authorities announced seizing four tons of cannabis hidden in dessert-making machinery at Piraeus that was en route from Lebanon to Slovakia. The value of the drugs was estimated to be around US$39 million.
Lebanon is already in the throes of a deep financial crisis that is posing the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. Lebanon has vowed to punish the drug smugglers.
23 April: Plague of locusts swarm the Bekaa Valley
Army helicopters were sent to the skies to assist in spraying insecticide over agricultural areas in the east of the country after a plague of locusts swarmed over Baalbek and Ras Baalbek in the Bekaa Valley.
Caretaker Agriculture Minister Abbas Mortada said the current number of locusts does not present a high-level threat to crops in Lebanon yet, but should the spraying of insecticides fail, then the matter could become more serious.
Other countries in the Middle East are also battling swarms of locusts that are destroying swaths of crops.
24 April: Swiss probe Central Bank chief over alleged $300m embezzlement
Switzerland’s attorney-general is investigating allegations that Lebanon’s central bank governor and his brother embezzled more than $300m from that institution through transactions to a mysterious offshore company.
“Since April 2002 at least, it appears the central bank governor, Riad Salame, with help from his brother, Raja Salame, organised embezzlement operations…exceeding $300m to the detriment of the Banque du Liban [BdL],” the Swiss attorney-general’s office wrote in a letter to the Lebanese authorities requesting mutual legal assistance.
Salame did not deny the transactions took place but he said “not one dollar that was in the operations you mention was at the detriment of the BdL,” adding: “all these transactions were approved by the [BdL’s] central board”.
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