Joint parliamentary committees on Tuesday approved a 300 billion Lebanese pound treasury loan for Electricité du Liban, Lebanon’s state-owned electricity producer, despite the objection of deputies from the Lebanese Forces and the Progressive Socialist Party.
“The central issue was in the equation that was being proposed – either loan or obscurity – and MPs were not happy at all, seeing this as a form of blackmail as this issue will always be repeated,” said Vice President Elie Ferzli, who chaired the meeting, said.
“Personally, I clearly sympathized with the proposal of the Democratic Rally and Strong Republic blocs, which called for abstaining from endorsing the bill and instead issuing a recommendation and emphasizing that there is an alternative choice, which is forming a government,” Ferzli added.
“I always insist that the real way out is the formation of a government,” he continued.
Noting that the loan will be paid from “depositors’ money at the central bank, which amounts to 17 billion dollars”, Ferzli said the deputies categorically refused to “finance our negative situation”.
“Next time – God willing after the formation of a government and on the way to salvation – no loan should be approved under the slogan ‘darkness or approval’. Next time we will say: leave or darkness! Ferzli added.
Interim Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar warned on Thursday that the country would plunge into “total darkness” at the end of the month if no money was secured to buy fuel for power stations.
Power cuts have been common in Lebanon since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war, forcing Lebanese to pay a second electricity bill to private generators for three to 12 hours a day during blackouts.
Today, the country faces its worst economic crisis in decades and a rapid shortage of hard currency to support imports.
Ghajar warned that the state power company, EDL, was running out of money.
Ghajar, who was speaking after meeting President Michel Aoun, warned of the repercussions on all sectors in the event of a power cut.
“Imagine your life without electricity, internet, phones, hospitals or vaccines… It’s surreal to live in the 21st century without electricity,” he said.
Ghajar called for emergency funding for the state electricity company to continue supplying power until a larger loan is approved by parliament.
Until now, the electricity company has been operating on the remains of a loan allocated under the 2020 budget, but the 2021 budget has not yet been adopted as the country is grappling with a double economic and political crisis. .
Lebanon has been importing fuel on a shipment-by-shipment basis since the start of the year, after a contract with a subsidiary of Algeria’s state-owned Sonatrach expired and was not renewed.
Social media users blasted Ghajar’s comments.
“What is surreal is that we have these officials in charge,” one wrote, echoing the widespread sentiment that the country’s political elite is incompetent or corrupt and responsible for the country’s many crises. country.
The international community has long called for a complete overhaul of the electricity sector, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the war.
Lebanon’s government resigned after a massive explosion in Beirut last summer that killed more than 200 people, but a deeply divided political class has failed to agree on a cabinet to replace it.
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