Can oil turn Lebanon’s lights on?

The Bourj Al-Barajneh refugee camp in Beirut is home to an estimated 30,000 displaced people and poor migrants. Getty Images
Updated 08 April 2018
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Can oil turn Lebanon’s lights on?

  • Lebanon’s rank out of 137 in reliability and quality of electricity supply
  • Lebanon and Israel have been contesting the rights to the 860 square kilometer triangular zone.
BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil could not contain his excitement when the country began its first petroleum licensing round last fall. “Congratulations to the Lebanese people on Lebanon entering the club of oil countries,” he said on social media.
Are congratulations really in order, though?
Lebanon’s homes and streets are still plagued by regular timed blackouts.
While the country secured bids by a consortium of three companies for two offshore exploration and drilling blocks, its people can barely obtain power to light up their living rooms.
“We time our lives around the electricity outages,” Tamer, 60, an architect, told Arab News.
“I can only go to the office at 12 when the electricity is back on so that I can use the elevator and not have to go up five flights of stairs,” said Tamer, who has back problems.
Electricity in the country works in shifts. In big cities such as Beirut, the power goes out every day for three hours and generators can be heard humming throughout the capital. In poorer and more rural areas, it is off for much longer, sometimes up to 10 hours a day.
According to the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Index for 2017-18, oil-producing Lebanon ranks 134th out of 137 countries for the quality and reliability of its electricity supply.
While politicians over the years have promised voters “economic independence” and “a 24/7 electricity supply,” the main question Lebanon’s people are asking is: Will Lebanon’s oil production have a positive or negative effect?
“Potential benefits can turn into disadvantages in the absence of several factors, such as good governance and strong institutions,” Jessica Obeid, former chief energy engineer at the UN Development Program (UNDP) in Beirut, told Arab News.
“Talks on using the — for now non-existent — revenues to pay off Lebanon’s high debt, or revive the economy, should not be taking place,” said Obeid, who is also an academy fellow at the UK think tank Chatham House. There will be “no concrete results” for another eight to 10 years, she said.
“The only certain thing from my perspective is that the country will face a series of serious challenges in developing its petroleum industry.”
So far, since the seismic data implied the potential oil & gas resources off the coast in Lebanon in 2010, its people have witnessed a 29-month presidential vacuum, an infamous river of trash, and now continuous threats from Israel over a disputed oil and gas exploration block.
Lebanon and Israel have been contesting the rights to the 860 square kilometer triangular zone on the maritime border between the two nations. Israel has proposed formalizing maritime law in order to secure its right to the oil; Lebanon’s parliamentary speaker, Nabih Berri, described this as “a declaration of war on Lebanon.”
Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman told the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University this year that Lebanon’s plans to drill in the disputed offshore oil and gas field were “very, very challenging and provocative.”
With internal issues and political turmoil causing delays and hindering the petroleum industry in Lebanon, other regional petroleum producers have emerged as strong competitors, Obeid said.
For now, Lebanon must look to alternative resources to ameliorate its electricity problems, while solving the problem in the longer term is a task left for future generations.
 


Turkey extradites corruption fugitive Mutee to Jordan

Updated 35 sec ago
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Turkey extradites corruption fugitive Mutee to Jordan

  • Awni Mutee extradition is a win for the Jordanian leadership, as people have been protesting about taxes, unemployment, price rises and austerity measures
AMMAN: A Jordanian businessman wanted in connection with tax evasion and customs violations amounting to 155 million Jordanian dinars ($218.6 million) has been extradited from Turkey, a diplomatic source confirmed to Arab News on Tuesday.
Authorities allege that Awni Mutee was operating factories that illegally manufactured cigarettes, selling them in Jordan and smuggling them overseas.
Jordanian media, citing an Interpol Red Notice, reported that Mutee was wanted on six charges including carrying out acts that endanger public safety and security and carrying out acts that would change the country’s economic entity or endangers society’s basic conditions.
“We are happy to help a brotherly country in its fight against corruption and we are especially concerned about the effects of criminals who are behind the sale of drugs… to young people,” Turkey’s Ambassador to Jordan Marat Karajuz told Arab News. “This is a problem both in Jordan and Turkey and we are happy to help.”
His extradition is a win for the Jordanian leadership, as people have been protesting about taxes, unemployment, price rises and austerity measures. October demonstrations prompted King Abdullah to pledge a war on corruption.
Jordanian lawmaker Nabil Gheshan said he had thanked the king.
“I told his majesty that bringing Awni Mutee will help produce a major breakthrough for many young Jordanians who are complaining about the current situation, and the king replied that now the job is for government institutions to do their work.”
Prime Minister Omar Razzaz had earlier told Parliament that “no unresolved corruption case will be closed under his administration,” according to Gheshan.