Beirut: The legislative session, Tuesday, reflected the chaos and confusion that Lebanon is experiencing, as Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati and Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri threw the issue of canceling wheat subsidies like hot potatoes.
The highlight of the session was the approval of the amendment of the banking secrecy law, which was discussed in the presence of the US Ambassador to Lebanon Dorothy Shea, as it falls within the reforms demanded by the international community as a condition for helping the country.
Representative Ibrahim Kanaan said: “The international community should look positively at agreeing to amend the banking secrecy law.” We expect the government to restructure the banks in line with what we have approved. The Capital Control Law also needs to be amended and the government has to work hard in this regard.”
During the session, which included many discussions and fiery responses, Mikati took up an item on the agenda related to the request for approval of a $150 million World Bank loan agreement to implement an emergency response project to secure wheat supplies. “Most of the bread packets produced with fortified flour go to non-Lebanese, and everyone knows that.”
He told parliamentarians: “If you want to lift subsidies on wheat and you want the government to do so, then issue a recommendation from Parliament in this regard.” Berry refused.
Caretaker Economy Minister Amin Salam said that if wheat subsidies were lifted, the price of the bread package would range between 30,000 Lebanese pounds (about one dollar) and 35,000 Lebanese pounds.
He pointed out that “under the agreement with the World Bank, the loan implementation mechanism will start in the coming weeks to secure the necessary funds, and thus secure a social safety net.”
Dozens of bakeries ran out of bread on Tuesday due to a shortage of flour, which is now sold on the black market at exorbitant prices. What was available of the bread, was cut down by people who rushed to the bakeries in the early hours of the morning, depriving others of the hope of finding it during the day.
People often insult the state or the Syrian refugees and blame them for what is happening.
Salam said that Syrian refugees consume about 40 percent of the subsidized imported wheat: 500,000 bundles of bread per day.
Mikati told parliamentarians: “The government has been seeking to address the issue of public sector employees who have been on strike for more than a month to provide solutions within the available capabilities.
“We are spending within limits amid a lack of resources. We are awaiting the Finance Minister’s report on the cost of the salary increase. We do not want to give with one hand and take with the other to avoid inflation.”
MP Hadi Abul-Hassan said: “The ongoing strike is paralyzing the country. Parliament must discuss the 2022 draft budget, otherwise we are heading towards more inflation. If it comes to the absence of a unified exchange rate, the government should propose to Parliament a fixed rate for discussion. We want a draft law The budget and the recovery plan instead of spending without revenues, and thus exacerbating the crisis.”
Representative Waddah Al-Sadiq said: Tuesday’s session was about coming up with temporary solutions while the ship is sinking more. The entire country is facing economic collapse. The bailout begins with an economic plan, followed by an off-plan budget, and finally the approval of laws. Our governments are working backwards.”
Among the items approved by the House of Representatives is the formation of a Supreme Council to try presidents and ministers, consisting of seven representatives from different sects. Berri insists that it is this council, not the judiciary, that tries the accused, including former ministers and current MPs, accused of involvement in the Beirut port bombing.
This came in the wake of a protest organized by the families of the victims in the vicinity of the House of Representatives, against the formation of this House.
They also demanded that the partially destroyed wheat granaries be preserved as a silent witness to the crime.
The families of the victims said that “the formation of this council is an attempt to escape the judicial investigation to prevent the prosecution of the accused in any crime.”
Caretaker Environment Minister Nasser Yassin, a member of the ministerial committee in charge of reviewing the status of the silos, told Arab News: “The silos are tilting. We put sensors in coordination with French experts to study this tilt movement, which started with the explosion in 2020 and has increased with time, especially As fires continue to break out inside the structure due to the summer heat and humidity. The silos tend more now, about 2.5 mm per hour. We fear that part of the remaining structure will collapse and lead to catastrophic consequences.”
On Monday evening, the Ministry of Health warned people living in a radius of 500 meters to 1500 meters that “in the event of any collapse or partial collapse of the silos, the dust from construction residues and some fungi from mold. The grains will be released and will spread in the air.”