The decades-old electricity rationing problem has long become a normal part of everyday life in Lebanon. Among others, the numbers 2, 6, 10, and 12, can have a strange effect on a Lebanese individual, not for their mathematical properties but for the darkness that follows whenever the hour hand of a clock strikes them.
Over the years, new politicians are elected and with them come along promising assurances that in the year 20XX, Lebanon will have a 24/7 electricity supply.
Yet, time and time again, as we approach (even pass) these promised years, the rationing not only remains unaltered but grows worse.
The second decade of the 21st century of advancement, technology, and speed is here. With its arrival, many countries of the world celebrated the outstanding achievements that they have already accomplished in the past 10 years and looked forth with excitement at the ones awaiting to be attained.
In Lebanon, however, there are no such celebrations. Instead, there are protests and more protests against the many mistakes and failures of the ruling class.
More than 40% of the general deficit of the Lebanese government comes from the domain of electricity (2,500 billion Lebanese Pounds in the latest estimates).
The many consistent failures in this domain over the years have been dangerously depleting the economy and creating a continuous, challenging cycle of failure and deficit.
Hence, the government’s efforts should be put into solving the problems present at the roots of these failures, which, in turn, would return positive results for the economy and decrease the general deficit.
The solution being worked on, however, is not very productive. Since before the end of 2019, the caretaker government has been working on a 2020 budget that will supposedly be “less deficient” than that of the past year. As good as it sounds, there is an alarming implication to be made of this declaration.
As it can be deduced from the caretaker Finance Minister’s statement, that “the financial contribution of the electricity sector will be reduced to 1,500 billion Liras,” the lower deficiency of the new budget will be the result of the government decreasing its expenses on Electricité du Liban.
Not only does this financial cut not end the deficit caused by the Lebanese electric sector, a deficit that is expected to build right back up with time, but it also means that the hours of supply provided to the citizens will consequently be reduced further.
The deficiency is also expected to increase soon because of the predicted rise in the prices of oil in the world caused by the Saudi oil facilities being recently damaged in a military strike.
In context, the designated 1,500 billion LBP roughly equal to less than 10 hours a day of supply over the entire year.
As confirmed by sources of Al Joumhouria, the Electricity of Lebanon’s institution is expected to have more factories up and running in the near future and, thus, will require additional funds to operate them.
But these factories will not be ready for production before at least three years due to various legal and procedural issues. This necessitates the implementation of a temporary solution to keep a steady supply of electricity before the new, permanent factories can begin production.
The solution might be to run a bid in which candidate temporary suppliers can step in and increase the hours of supply. But this also requires time; as much as a full year.
Therefore, if this option is chosen by the Minister of Energy, and if the financial contribution of the electricity sector remains 1,500 billion Liras, it seems that the barely-10 hours of electricity will not be increased before at least the near-end of 2020.
Recently, the Electricity of Lebanon said in a statement that it is “forced to continue to take the necessary precautions to maintain the greatest possible stability in the electrical current feeding for the longest possible period, as this vital commodity is of economic, social and security importance.”
This means that, until this February, only 1,500 Megawatts will be fed to the network due to the current economic crisis in Lebanon on one hand, and the soaring prices of oil in the world on the other.
In its statement, the institution added that “it will technically able to put additional energy with a minimum of 500 megawatts and increase feeding hours if it has the necessary capabilities.”
“The amount of available fuel is sufficient until the end of February 2020,” explained the caretaker Minister of Energy Nada Boustani in a separate statement.
This issue is directly caused by the delay in the approval of this year’s budget, along with the previously mentioned 1,500 billion LBP. If it is not approved before the end of the next month, Lebanon will go dark.
Corruption: The mother of the crisis
Last but certainly not least, there’s the chief problem of corruption. Of course, every single problem and detail in the field of electricity cannot be crammed into a single article. But what can be said is that all of these problems originate from the biggest of dilemmas in Lebanon.
It is not surprising news that the Lebanese domain of electricity is full of corruption and mismanagement.
Regardless of the budget, the deficit, the storms, the price of oil, and the legalities, the many crises of Lebanon are the work of some greedy, unqualified, corrupt, and useless people who are only good at feeding the citizens false promises and abject lies.
Because even if the budget is approved, even if the money is available and plenty, it will go into the wrong places. Had they really intended to put honest work into it, our country would have had 24/7 electricity a long time ago.
Had they not turned the public facility into a political monopoly, the poor and the deprived would not have been left without light and warmth in their homes, and forced to march in the streets after the sun had set.
The abuse of power in Lebanon is killing its power supply. The entire infrastructure system of the country is an embarrassing failure.
Most of the foreign countries, even some of those considered less developed than Lebanon, provide a constant supply of electricity for their citizens.
On the last note, to call Lebanon a “developing” country is to be making an elementary mistake; the country has represented nothing but the opposite of development for decades.
If Lebanon does indeed lose its electricity in the coming months, it would perhaps be the most shameful and disgraceful of screw-ups in the history of 21st century Lebanon.