Lebanon to restart oil, gas licensing round and it smells fishy

In its first sitting since being formed in December, Lebanon’s new cabinet passed two decrees on Wednesday defining the blocks and specifying conditions for production and exploration tenders and contracts. In a record time, the ministers went over 600 pages document and passed those decrees. Was the deal and the shares been distributed before hand? How can a new government that barley met, ministers didn’t even have the time to look at their own ministries, can go over 600 pages in couple of hours? When did ministers have the time to study the file? Many of them just returned from Christmas and New Year vacation !!

It doesn’t sound right to me. Yet, the country needs to start the offshore digging in order to know how much oil and gas the fields will produce. In addition, the country’s economy is near collapsing. the public debt is around US$ 69.02 billion (2015 numbers). Add to that the cost of hosting 1 million Syrian refugees. Oil and gas will create jobs and hopefully will lift the economy, pay the debt and make the living of the Lebanese people with fewer burdens.

The problem is not the quantity of oil and gas, it’s the political system we have and corruption. In our current status, public funds are mismanaged and mostly stolen. Lebanon doesn’t have the tools, laws and clean people in the right place to avoid what happened in other countries. Vast sums of money from national accounts in some oil- and gas-producing countries evaporated.

Lebanon that we have today will not be able to control theft, bribery and state-wide corruption. I’m pretty sure that the current political system will mishandled the oil and gas sector and the squanders of the potential revenues. According to Transparency International 2015 report,  Lebanon ranked 123 out of 168 countries. The country scored 28 over 100 in public sector corruption.

Before digging, we must have a change in the political representation. Those who are corrupt can’t and shouldn’t be allowed to handle the oil and gas file. So we need the following:

  • New fair electoral vote
  • Clean elections
  • New government based on election results
  • Transparency laws
  • Methods to end corruption and misuse of funds and public resources
  • Laws that allows the public access to information
  • Establishing a company that represents the country in the agreements with companies who will be doing the exploration and excavation.
  • Sending students and workers to get training in the sector of oil and gas.
  • The company that will represent the country should open specialized university to teach students skills that will be required for the industry.
  • Limit the numbers of foreigners and force the companies to use mainly Lebanese workforce

 

Lebanon ranked 3rd with the highest level of government debt

3. Lebanon — 139.1%. The country used to be a tourist destination, but war in Syria and domestic political turmoil have caused ructions across the economy. (Source: The Independent).

Corruption, theft, rigged system, dirty politicians ….. and Al Sha3ib Al-3anid ….

The most corrupt groups in the region.

“In Lebanon, numbers are alarming as nine in ten people (92 per cent) say that they think corruption has increased. Government officials, tax officials and members of parliament are perceived to be the most corrupt groups in the region” according to the new Transparency International new survey.

“In some countries the situation is perceived to be particularly bad. In Yemen and Jordan three quarters or more of respondents (84 per cent and 75 per cent, respectively) say that they think corruption rose in the 12 months prior to the survey. This rises to over nine in ten people (92 per cent) in Lebanon, which was the highest of any place we surveyed in …. Citizens in Yemen and Lebanon think that the public sector in their country suffers from particularly widespread corruption. More than two-thirds of respondents (68 and 67 per cent, respectively) say “Most” or “All” individuals working in these institutions are corrupt, while a further quarter say that “Some” are corrupt (26 and 22 per cent, respectively). Only one in twenty (5 per cent each) thinks that the national public sector institutions are completely free from corruption …. People in Yemen and Lebanon are particularly critical of government efforts to address public sector graft. In Lebanon three-quarters (76 per cent) rate their administration’s efforts as either very or fairly bad, while in Yemen this proportion rises to nine in ten (91 per cent) …”

Rubbish job: dissatisfaction in Lebanon’s waste services Citizens in Lebanon are very critical of their government efforts at fighting corruption, with over three-quarters saying it is doing a bad job (76 per cent) in this area. Recently, many people have taken to the streets in Lebanon to protest over the government’s failure to dispose of waste in the country’s capital, Beirut, as part of the “You Stink” campaign, and public dissatisfaction is reportedly growing in the country over the extent of alleged corruption. iv Garbage collection services were stopped in some parts of the city in July 2015, after the country’s largest landfill site was closed. It took until February 2016 for the government to agree on a new site for the city’s refuse to go to – while, in the meantime, the growing piles of rubbish are causing a terrible stench and posing a significant public health risk to the city.  Campaigners blame potential corruption and political paralysis for the delay in solving the crisis. In Lebanon, refuse processing can be part of the bargain used by politicians when exchanging favours behind the scenes. The lack of transparency in such types of deals means that citizens can foot the bill for inefficient or expensive service delivery. The failure of the political system to deal swiftly with the garbage crisis has caused greater attention to be turned to such behind-the scenes-deals, as people became tired of the slow response from their elected representatives.

CAN PEOPLE MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Citizens in Morocco, Algeria, Lebanon and Egypt are more divided on this issue. Only around a half of the citizens of these countries (from 50 to 53 per cent) agreed that ordinary people can make a difference in fighting corruption, while a sizable minority feel disempowered…  People in Lebanon are the most pessimistic; a third (32 per cent) of citizens there say that there is nothing people can do … The second most common reason why people don’t report more cases of corruption is that they feel that it won’t make a difference, as nothing will be done about it (19 per cent). In Yemen and Lebanon (26 and 30 per cent, respectively) this is particularly the case, which perhaps reflects the lack of government capacity in both these countries.

The widespread extent of corruption in Yemen, Lebanon and Sudan in particular is also considered another factor why more cases of corruption are not reported there. In these countries respondents are particularly likely to say that the reason why people don’t report is that corruption is normal and everyone does it (between 11 and 14 per cent), or that the officials to whom they would report corruption are often also involved in it (between 14 and 15 per cent). When corruption is endemic within communities it triggers a feeling of resignation and apathy, which is why greater efforts need to be made to tackle bribery and other forms of corruption head-on.

Lebanon and Yemen stand out in the region as having the most negative ratings by citizens. Since Yemen was on the verge of collapse when the survey was conducted, these ratings indicate a larger malaise within the country just prior to the civil war and the imminent crumbling of public infrastructure and services. Lebanon, which is divided along sectarian lines, has failed to produce a functioning government since the former president stepped down in 2014.The public sector suffers from high levels of corruption according to its citizens, who are critical of government efforts at fighting corruption…

Way to go my fellow Lebanese. What are you going to do about it? Will you do something about it? When will you? Municipality elections coming up in couple of days, will you start there? I doubt.

A short Blacklist

oecd-logoAccording to the Devoir Article (French), Three countries are threatened to be added to the future blacklist of uncooperative tax havens of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to be established in July at the request of the G20, the group of twenty of the world’s richest countries : Panama, Lebanon and the Vanuatu archipelago. According to the “Devoir”, these three countries are not abiding by the rules that the OECD put in place for money laundering.

It seems that our fellow Lebanese are still involved in money laundering. When the Syrian regime pulled out of Lebanon, I mentioned that it is time to change everything and throw in history garbage can all political leaders and especially those who allied themselves with the Syrian occupation. The average Lebanese decided to line up with his old alliances. Results: no president, government and parliament divided, garbage crises, internet crises, no electricity, no water, Hizbullah weapons, religious division, Syrian refugee crisis, …. and maybe soon no country.  OECD Website

Energy – Refreshing news

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.

Under Pressure: the impact of Syrian refugees on Lebanon

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.

Enough – May 5, 2012 – 6PM @ Martyr’s Square

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
بكفّي!

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”