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