Sitting at the top of Lebanon's list of serious crises, the problem of electricity has been slowly getting more aggravated over the years. Very recently, this problem has reached a very dangerous stage and doesn't look like it's going to be fixed anytime soon. But what's this talk about the Lebanese government refusing the assistance of the German company Siemens with its infamous electricity issue?
Claim: The German multinational conglomerate company Siemens AG offered to solve Lebanon’s chronic electricity crisis at a reasonable cost, but the government refused the offer.
Verdict: While it is true that Siemens made such an offer, it is not a recent one. The offer was made to Lebanon in 2018 by the company's CEO after arriving in Lebanon alongside Chancellor of Germany Angela Merkel during Merkel's official visit to Lebanon in the same year.
Context: Although, as mentioned, the offer is not new, it is worth taking this opportunity to reflect on that offer and ask the golden question: What became of it?
The offer to help fix Lebanon's decades-old electricity crisis was made by Siemens' Middle East CEO Dietmar Siersdorfer directly to the Energy Minister back then. So is it true that the ministry rejected the proposal?
"Siemens provided an approach to improving the Lebanese [electricity] system, from production to transportation, distribution, and collection," then-Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil had stated following his meeting with the CEO.
Although Abi Khalil and Siersdorfer both expressed optimism in regard to the future of the discussion of the offer, its details were not revealed to the public and the file has apparently been put to sleep since then.
Although obscure, the reasons behind the lack of progress on the Lebanese side in the Siemens case seem to be related to the control which some Lebanese politicians have over the monopoly of electricity in the country.
The offer was never withdrawn, but was, in fact, reiterated months later by the CEO of the company, Joe Kaeser, via Twitter.
Answering a Lebanese Twitter user's question regarding Siemens' proposal, Kaeser affirmed that the proposal was still open and the ball in the court of the Lebanese government. He even tagged the Middle East CEO, telling him to "Call Anytime!"
Yes, we did. During the visit w/ our Chanellor, I did offer to help improve the whole electricity value chain and have our team to come in and assess what’s best for the people.— Joe Kaeser (@JoeKaeser) September 26, 2018
No response yet from Government. Our door is open! Offer still good. Call Anytime! @Siersdorfer_D
The Lebanese Energy Minister joined the Twitter discussion later and commented that he looks forward to cooperating with Siemens "on needs assessment" and "accordingly maybe receiving a formal proposal."
Two years have passed, nothing has happened. It was rumored that the proposal comprised an offer of 300 million dollars that would be used to help put an end to the disastrous problem of electricity in Lebanon.
Perhaps the outrage and demonstrations that the country has been witnessing over the past few days as a reaction to the worsening electricity rationing issue could have been avoided by the authority, had it agreed to accept the offer.
That is not to mention the fact that there's a chance Lebanon will no longer be able to provide electricity to its citizens after February 2020.
The Lebanese people have finally woken up and risen against injustice. The question remains: When, if ever, will the heads and governors and leaders of the country follow the lead and give this dying nation a chance to live and prosper?