Lebanon faces complete blackout as fuel, money run dry
Lebanon could slip into complete darkness in coming weeks as subsidies for its electricity sector come to an end, lawmakers have warned.
The chronic electricity crisis could worsen in coming days, as a $200 million emergency loan approved by parliament late in March was temporarily blocked by the Constitutional Council on Tuesday.
The council’s decision came after a parliamentary bloc opposed to the allocation of funds appealed the decision.
Lebanon’s ailing electricity sector has cost it more than $45 billion in subsidies since the early 1990s. The figure accounts for about 40 percent of the country’s sovereign debt, with successive governments failing to find a permanent solution to the problem.
Corruption is also rife in the sector, with scandals having been revealed in recent years regarding deals at the energy ministry and state-run company EDL.
The $200 million emergency loan was intended to be allocated for fuel imports, an expensive and environmentally damaging option. Caretaker Energy Minister Raymond Ghajar has warned on several occasions that the country is heading for total darkness if no solution is found,
The central bank has also warned against using up more funds for the sector, as it prepares to lift subsidies on other essential commodities at the end of May.
Lebanon is currently witnessing its worst ever financial and economic crisis, exacerbated by the massive port explosion in Beirut last summer. EDL, which faces the port, was severely damaged by the blast.
The company said on Thursday that it will be forced to reduce consumption from 1,250 megawatts to 1,050 megawatts until further notice.
“We have agreed with Minister Ghajar… to find a temporary solution until the Constitutional Council makes its (final) decision”, said MP Nazih Najm, after a meeting with officials.
Najm called on the council to make its decision quickly, warning that “as of May 15, it will gradually get darker”.