After writing about Beirut River Solar Snake project, couple days ago, my friend Najib blogged about ABC Ashrafieh Mall and their plan to install the largest private photovoltaic plant in Lebanon on their rooftop. The project will give ABC Mall a capacity of 0.45 MW that is enough to power its department store. You can read more about the project on this link. ABC Mall move is in the right direction and I hope all these new high rises that they are building in Beirut will adapt the same mentality and cut their need for electricity. The Beirut River Snake project will generate 1,655 megawatt-hours per year and will benefit the resident of Bourj Hammoud area.

Due to corruption and mismanagement, Lebanon been suffering from electricity supply shortage. According to Lebanese National News Agency, Lebanon production of electricity will stay at 1,500MW in 2015, while the demand for electricity during the peak summer will be around 2,800MW. Électricité Du Liban (EDL) deficit will exceed $21 billion. The alternative is solar and wind clean energy.

According to the United Nations development program (UNDP), Lebanon has around 300 sunny days in a year with over 8- 9 hours of daily sunshine. Solar energy presents a clean alternative that can, if properly designed, remove the need for diesel self-generation and lower the national utility electricity bill.

In addition, Lebanon is not taking advantage of Wind Power to generate electricity. I am aware of Akkar Wind Farm project but not sure if we have similar projects under study. According to a 2012 UNDP-CEDRO report, Lebanon has at least 1500 MW potential with a mean of 6,100 MW! In the past two years the technology advanced and probably Wind Power can generate more electricity these days.

Couple years ago, I was discussing ideas with a Lebanese business person and he had a good idea for Wind Power: The Maronite church is one of the biggest real estate owner in Lebanon. The church should be approached with a project that generates revenue. The church will give the land (or rent it), the private sector will invest in Wind Power stations and sell its production to EDL at a competitive price. The project will help supplying clean energy (instead of those diesel generators), fill in the gap in electricity production and generate money for the private sector as well as the Church. In return the church can use the money to help the poor.

It is a great idea, but it needs some lobbying to convince EDL to buy electricity. You may say it shouldn’t be that hard because in July 2012, Lebanon signed a $360 million three-year contract to lease electricity-generating barges from the Turkish firm. The two barges combined are expected to generate 270MW of electricity. Who will need these barges if we have alternative energy? But keep in mind that several powerful people mad money from this barges deal and others are making millions from the electrical generators companies.

By the way, I didn’t even talk about Lebanon average rainfall (1 meter annually). Not only Lebanon could be selling water to its neighbors but the country could be a major generator of clean electric power, sufficient for its own consumption and even to sell to others.

Yes we have few projects here and there but so far it’s not enough. Corruption and electricity mafia will do their best to shut down these initiatives but it shouldn’t be a reason not to push forward.

Syrian refuge

country-lbnThe continuous deterioration of the security in Syria as a result of the ongoing crisis has forced thousands of Syrians to flee to Lebanon. According to UNHCR estimates, by December 2015 Lebanon will host 1,846,150 Syrian refugees. In 2014, UNHCR had 1,435,840 Syrian refugee registered with them. Lebanon population is around 4.3 million. By the end of 2015, the Syrian refugees will represent around 43% of Lebanon population. The figures can be higher, many refugees sneak into the country without getting registered by the authorities.

Recently, the Lebanese government has established an inter-ministerial crisis cell, and imposed restrictions at the borders. These measures will not deter Syrians from entering the country. These scary numbers of refugees are putting a burden on Lebanese economy and will play a major role in Lebanon demographics in the future. Add to that, the misery these refugees are living in.

Lebanese had experience with refugees. They know how their generosity and the policy of opening doors to people in need backfired and dragged Lebanon into a civil war. During Arab-Israeli war, Lebanon opened its doors to Palestinian refugees. It is to note that currently, Lebanon is home to 1.5 million Palestinian refugee. Some regional and international powers decided to arm the Palestinians to wage a war against Israel from Lebanon. This decision dragged Lebanon into a civil war. Some might decide to do the same with the Syrian refugees in the future. Looking at what is happening between the two Muslim sects (Sunnite and Shiite) in Iraq, Yemen and Syria, it is inevitable that the Syrian refugees (mostly Sunnite) will be used to fuel a religious war in Lebanon.

Lebanon is in danger of entering a new civil war, it’s the duty of the international community to take charge of Syrian refugees crisis in Lebanon. Its their duty to avoid repeating the Palestinian example. The international community must take charge and issue initiatives to either end the Syrian civil war or accept these refugees in their countries. Lebanon, in its current political and economic crisis, can’t handle this amount of refugees.

By the end of 2015, the number of all refugees in Lebanon will be more than 50% of Lebanon population. A major disaster is in the making.

I got this from a friend and asked me to pass it along. I doubt this event or movement will make a difference but it is a step in the right direction.

لأنو الغلا “حديث البلد” و همّ البلد
خلّينا لمرّة وحده، نجتمع لنطالب بحقوقنا
مش لنهتف إلهن
السبت، 5 أيار، الساعة 6 المسا، ساحة الشهدا

Because the High Cost of Living is “The talk of the town” and its concern, let us for one unite for our rights and not to cheer them. Saturday, May 5, time 6 PM @ Martyr’s Square. Enough!

The picture says ” 8 and 14 everyone is hungry – Opposition or Supporters in front of the hospitals they dies – The Hand that can’t feed its family can’t vote – Enough”

Corruption: Lebanon way of life

“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.” Karl Kraus

Change and Reform bloc leader Michel Aoun said yesterday that he has “documents” to verify the corruption allegations he made last Friday against some Lebanese political groups. It is funny how Aoun remembers these files when he doesn’t get what he wants in regards of appointment of his followers inside the governmental institutions. After a dispute between his ministers and ministers of the PSP, Aoun threatened that he will take the files of the “Ministry of the displaced” to court.

Lebanon is a fertile land for corruption. It is more than a way of life. Life doesn’t function in Lebanon without corruption. You want to get a driver license without taken a test, bribe someone. You want to build a building illegally, all you have to do is bribe someone. You want to import expired food to the country, just bribe someone. You want to get elected in the next elections (any election) just buy some votes.

Corruption in Lebanon exists in all its forms including bribery, nepotism, favoritism, patronage, embezzlement, kick-backs, and vote-buying.

Transparency International (TI), a leading non-governmental organization devoted to fighting corruption worldwide, released its annual Corruption Perception Index for 2011 that ranked Lebanon in 134th place among 183 countries worldwide and 13th among 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

In their latest report on corruption, TI said: “The impacts of corruption are tremendous and can be classified as political costs rendering fragile the relationship between citizens and the state, financial costs especially in terms of investment and lack of corporate governance, as well as socio-economic costs.” To read their Arabic Report, follow this link: National Integrity System . Or you can read LTA’s Press Release on the results of the 2011 CPI in English.

Aoun might be right in the case of the “Ministry of the displaced” but he forgot that he never explained the whereabouts of $35 Million dollars that he took with him to France when he was exiled to France from the Lebanese treasury. He refused to return to Lebanon before the proxy-Syrian government closed all the files opened against him. Those were Public money. It was part of the deal for his return. The smell of corruption started to leak out from those around him. Even many inside the FPM critics say they can name a number of politicians who have benefited from compromises done by Michel Aoun, his son in law Minister Gebran Bassil and Prime Minister Miqati. They also started to talk about the electricity and gas and oil deals and who is getting a cut from the FPM ….

What is also amazing is how Aoun never talks about the corruption of his allies. It seems he is oblivious to the corruption of Amal. He tend to forget the “Majlis al-Janoub” ….  Aoun has files on certain politicians but for sure others have file on him and his entourage.

The Lebanese system prevents control and penalization. Culprits are protected by their respective communities and leaders. Everyone gets a cut and national interest doesn’t exist in Lebanon dictionary.

Lebanese must tackle the culture of corruption that is rooted in our society. Whistle-blower protection law and a freedom of information act should be passed in order to provide much-needed transparency for official government action. But such laws will not be introduced and if they pass, they will not be enforced. The lawmakers are part of this corruption culture of ours.

In order to defeat corruption, you need to have the right people in the right place. The battle against corruption starts in electing people who are ready to fight corruption. Will we see a change in the next election or will people decide to sell their votes and dignity to corrupt politicians?

Israel seeks to turn gas to gold according to the AP story published today. In short Israel is setting a plan for a national investment fund that would tap an anticipated natural gas bonanza to fuel both an export-geared economy and provide a nest egg of $10 billion in under a decade for future generations. Some of the revenues would be invested in strategically critical targets such as education and health. Lebanon will use the revenue from oil excavation primarily to lower public debt according to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati. Public debt in Lebanon rose to $55 Billion Dollars in 2010. In 1992, Lebanon’s national debt was around 4382 billion Lebanese pounds (around 2.9 billion dollars). Late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri took office and since then the debt kept Mushrooming in alarming rate. By 1997, the net public debt of the gross domestic product (GDP) have  increased more than 100%. There are many reasons for such increase, they are complicated and connected. You had the Syrian regime occupying Lebanon and taking cuts from every deal done in the country. You have the development initiated by Late Prime Minister Hariri. You have corruption on every single level, …..

Developing Lebanon, I should say reconstructing downtown Beirut, and the corruption of the Lebanese political system are the one to blame for the $55 Billion Dollars deficit. If we look at what was called “development” of Lebanon, all we see is new fancy building in downtown Beirut with couple of new bridges. Lebanese still get around 4 hours of electricity per day, no water system, no infrastructure, no sewer systems, no recycling plants, ….. nothing. Just few new buildings and bridges. Oh and by the way, the new buildings are owned by a company called Solidere that was formed by Rafiq Hariri himself through a parliament decree  …. oh well this is another story to talk about.

Add to all that the corruption. Or as Lebanese call it “Shatara” (cunning). If you are not “cunning” in Lebanon they call you stupid. This “cunningness” is at its top level in the Lebanese political system. You see politicians arguing on TV all day and behind the scenes they will be wheeling and dealing with each others and use their “shatara” to fill their bank accounts.

To solve our debt problem, Lebanon needs implement several solutions and modifications. The problem resides in the fact that all these modifications require political and administrative reforms that the political class could not want or not afford to operate in the present situation. Why would they change a system that is making them millionaires (some billionaires).

With gas and oil extraction, they found the solution for the debt, they will use the revenues to pay it off. For sure, they will pocket millions of these revenues. They already setup companies in order to suck all the profits to themselves.

So while Israel is setting up its future generation, Lebanon will be setting up its politicians and their families. They will be doing it twice. The first by paying a debt that they accumulated and stole part of it. the second by allowing them to rip the benefits of the revenues to their own companies.

What will the Lebanese say? He doesn’t care as long as the deputy, the minister, the za3im, the leader, …. hires his son for few hundred dollars per month.