Hariri Hails 'Achievement' as Govt. Approves Electricity Planإقرأ هذا الخبر بالعربية
The Council of Ministers on Monday approved a plan to resolve the country's chronic electricity problem after “some amendments” were introduced, TV networks said.
Earlier in the day, the National News Agency said President Michel Aoud told conferees that the session would not be adjourned before the endorsement of the plan.
“Energy Minister Nada al-Bustani's plan has managed to overcome all hurdles and the manner in which it has been presented has not allowed anyone to practice obstruction,” NNA added.
The agency said the plan “takes into account the Free Patriotic Movement's concerns over the possibility of obstruction of the plan at the Public Procurement Management Administration” and that a “unanimous agreement” had been reached on this point.
Defense Minister Elias Bou Saab meanwhile said that a ministerial panel has been tasked with following up on the implementation of the plan in order to prevent any obstruction.
"The electricity plan is an achievement for all political parties," Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced at a press conference after the session.
"The electricity plan is an achievement for Lebanon and no one will obstruct it," Hariri added.
Hariri also noted that the Public Procurement Management Administration and a technical panel from the Energy Ministry will be in charge of the tendering process.
Asked whether the plan will satisfy the international donors, Hariri said: “The electricity plan will satisfy the Lebanese people because it will bring them electricity 24/7 and contribute to lowering the deficit.”
“All international institutions will see that we are taking real decisions to improve this sector,” Hariri added, noting that the plan will “improve Lebanon's international financial ranking.”
“The electricity tendering process must take place as soon as possible because the state's finances cannot withstand a single day of delay,” the premier went on to say.
President Aoun meanwhile telephoned Speaker Nabih Berri to ask him to put an urgent draft law for amending Article 288, which is related to the electricity plan, on the agenda of parliament's Wednesday session.
The decision is the most significant by the Cabinet since it was formed in late January and is a step towards unlocking billions in aid pledged to Lebanon in exchange for slashing public spending and overhauling the electricity sector.
Energy Minister Bustani, who first presented the plan last month, described the Cabinet's approval as a "positive step."
The plan still needs to be approved by parliament.
A dated electricity grid, rampant corruption and lack of reform has left power supply lagging way behind rising demand since Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war.
According to the McKinsey & Company consulting firm, the quality of Lebanon's electricity supply in 2017-2018 was the fourth worst in the world after Haiti, Nigeria and Yemen.
Government subsidies to state-run EDL electricity firm have also worsened the cash-strapped government’s budget.
EDL receives one of the largest slices of the government's budget after debt servicing and salaries.
According to the World Bank, government transfers to EDL averaged 3.8 percent of gross domestic product from 2008 to 2017, amounting to about half of Lebanon's fiscal deficit.
Lebanon is one of the world's most indebted countries, with public debt estimated at 141 percent of GDP in 2018, according to credit ratings agency Moody's.
A conference dubbed CEDRE in the French capital in April pledged aid worth $11 billion, promising to stave off an economic crisis.
At the Paris conference, Lebanon committed to reforms including slashing public spending and overhauling the electricity sector.
In exchange, the international community has pledged major aid and loans, mostly for infrastructure projects that need to be signed off by the new government.