Lebanon’s president pledges to revive forensic audit of central bank

President Michel Aoun delivers a televised address on the eve of the country's 77th independence day, at the presidential palace in Baabda. (AFP)
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Updated 21 November 2020

Lebanon’s president pledges to revive forensic audit of central bank

  • Among Lebanon’s multiple crises are growing poverty, a political vacuum and the coronavirus
  • “If we want statehood, then we must fight corruption ... and this begins by imposing the forensic financial audit,” Aoun said

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun said on Saturday that a forensic audit of the central bank was vital to combat corruption, and that he would get it back on track after the consultancy contracted to carry it out withdrew.
Aoun said “interest-driven roadblocks” had derailed the audit, which is a key condition for foreign donors to help Lebanon out of a deep financial crisis that has posed the biggest threat to its stability since its 1975-1990 civil war.
Among Lebanon’s multiple crises are growing poverty, a political vacuum, coronavirus and the fallout from a massive explosion at Beirut port in August that killed 200 people.
“Our reality today is not promising,” the president said in a televised speech to mark Independence Day, adding that Lebanon was a prisoner of corruption, political scheming and external dictations.
“If we want statehood, then we must fight corruption ... and this begins by imposing the forensic financial audit,” he said, adding he would not “back off” on the issue.
The caretaker finance minister announced on Friday that the restructuring consultancy Alvarez & Marsal had pulled out of the audit because the central bank had not provided all the information required to carry out the task, citing bank secrecy.
Lebanon has not yet formed a new government since the last one was brought down by the blast. Saad Al-Hariri, the Sunni prime minister-designate under a sectarian power-sharing agreement, is struggling to form a cabinet amid turf wars.


Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

Updated 25 November 2020

Egyptian festival celebrates Aragouz traditions

  • The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz

CAIRO: The second Egyptian Aragouz Festival has opened on Nov. 24, at the ancient Bayt Al-Sinnari, in Cairo. The aragouz is a traditional puppet figure dressed in red invented by Egyptians to ridicule situations comically.

Khaled Bahgat, a professor of theater at Helwan University and the founder of the festival and the Wamda Troupe for Aragouz and Shadow Puppets, said the festival is part of the initiative to preserve the Egyptian aragouz, after it was recognized by UNESCO in 2018 as one of the most important Egyptian artistic elements. He said that he wants the Egyptian art of aragouz to reach the world because it is an ancient Egyptian art.

The festival this year sheds light on the creative icons that inspired the aragouz.

The festival opened with a tribute to the great Egyptian creator Abu Al-Saud Al-Abyari in a reading of his story “Aragouz, Author and Idea,” which he published in 1953. Al-Aragouz was an important source of creativity for Al-Abyari.

The reading was followed by entries exploring how the art of aragouz shaped Egyptian comedy in the twentieth century.

The day closed with puppet performances of “The social media aragouz,” which reflected the impact of social media, directed by Ali Abu Zeid, and “The aragouz in the city,” directed by Nabil Bahgat.

On the second day, Reem Heggab will honor her father the late Egyptian poet Said Heggab, reciting one of his poems on the aragouz. This will be followed by two aragouz shows, “The Take Away,” directed by Mahmoud Sayed Hanafi, and “Aragouz, the Land of Myths.”

On Thursday, the theater department of the University of Alexandria will celebrate the aragouz with a lecture by Hany Abou El-Hassan, the head of the department, a workshop and a performance titled “Lorca and the aragouz,” directed by Nabil Bahgat and presented by the Wamda Troupe.

The performance honors the creativity of the Spanish poet and innovator Federico García Lorca, and will be held in the presence of the Spanish cultural attache.

The fourth day of the festival will honor the poet Fouad Haddad, whose son Amin Haddad will recite several poems from his father’s book of poetry entitiled Al-Aragouz. The poetry reading will be followed by a discussion.

Then there will be performances of “Aragouz Al Sima,” directed by Mustafa Al-Sabbagh, and “Al-Aragouz in Danger,” which deals with the greatest challenges facing the art of aragouz.

On the last day, the Faculty of Arts at Helwan University and the Department of Theater Sciences’ troupe will hold an open seminar with the department’s students to discuss ways to preserve the Egyptian aragouz.

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