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The New Arab Staff

Top Lebanese lawmaker calls for World Bank official to be expelled after vaccine row

Lebanon’s deputy parliament speaker, Elie Ferzli [Getty]

Date of publication: 25 February, 2021

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Lebanon's vaccination programme, which began earlier this month, was financed by $34 million from the World Bank.
Lebanon's deputy parliament speaker Elie Ferzli called for the World Bank representative in the country to be expelled, following outrage over Lebanese MPs' privileged access to the coronavirus vaccine, which have been financed by the global body.

"You are a liar, and you shouldn't be allowed to remain in Lebanon," Ferzli told the institution's Regional Director of the Mashreq Department in a televised interview on Wednesday.

Saroj Kumar Jha had voiced his frustration and disappointment in a tweet on Tuesday, after 26 Lebanese MPs received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the parliament building in Downtown Beirut.

This was in contravention of a national plan outlined by the Lebanese government and approved by the World Bank that gave precedence to those aged-75 and over.

Jha said such actions were "a breach of terms and conditions agreed with us for fair and equitable vaccination".

The vaccination programme, financed by $34 million from the World Bank, began earlier this month when the country received its first doses.

The official threatened to cut World Bank funding for the coronavirus campaign due to this violation. He used the hashtag #nowasta, with "wasta" being the Arabic term for nepotism.

While two MPs apologised on Wednesday for receiving the vaccine, Ferzli accused the World Bank official of politicising the incident.

After mispronouncing Jha's name, using instead the Arabic word for "baby chicks", Ferzli said the official should be kicked out of the country.

He defended his actions, saying "25 lawmakers have been infected in parliament so far, along with 25 other employees. The latest infections occurred during the Procurement Law Committee’s meeting".

To ensure accountability in a country known for cutting corners, an online portal was set up as part of the national vaccination plan.

The government is requiring all citizens to register for vaccinations and medical workers and people over 75 are to be given priority.

According to local media, many among the lawmakers who received the jabs were younger than 75.

Elie Ferzli, the second highest-ranking official of the Lebanese Republic, is in his early 70s and received the shot on Tuesday.

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