Dark times for a beleaguered Lebanon - GulfToday

Dark times for a beleaguered Lebanon


Photo used for illustrative purpose only.

Lebanon’s condition seems to be going from bad to worse. The predicament seem to be throwing the Lebanese nationals back into the Dark Ages, literally. The country went dark as fuel shortages forced its two largest power stations to shut down.

A government official said it was unlikely that things would improve over the next several days. The state electricity company confirmed in a statement that the thermoelectric plant at the Zahrani power station had stopped. The Deir Ammar plant stopped on Friday.

The shutdown of the two power stations had “directly affected the stability of the power network and led to its complete outage, with no possibility of resuming operations in the meantime,” a statement said.

The Lebanese army agreed to provide 6,000 kilolitres of gas oil distributed equally between the two power stations.

This quantity will secure power in Lebanon for three days, the statement added.

Most Lebanese saw no major change to their daily lives during the blackout, as those who can afford it have already subscribed to private generators to keep the lights on during the almost round-the-clock power cuts.

The generators however appear to be in short supply. Lebanon appears to be in a hopeless situation, as conditions have been worsened by an economic crisis which has deepened as supplies of imported fuel have dried up. The Lebanese currency has fallen by 90% since 2019.

It was the second such complete outage reported by Lebanese firm EDL since the start of the month. Restoring electricity is one of the many tough tasks facing Lebanon’s new government, formed last month after 13 months of political wrangling.

Fuel shortages have crippled normal life, affecting essential services including hospitals and bakeries. Several measures have been launched in a desperate bid to keep the lights on. Lebanon has reached an agreement towards bringing Jordanian electricity and Egyptian gas into the country via war-torn Syria.

The state is also bringing in some fuel oil for power stations in exchange for medical services under a swap deal with Iraq.

The international community has long demanded a complete overhaul of Lebanon’s loss-making electricity sector, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Exacerbated by political deadlock, Lebanon’s rapid deterioration has prompted Western concern. Some senior Lebanese officials sounded the alarm about a country that has spent 30 years slowly recovering from a 1975-90 civil war.  Over two years, around 78% of the Lebanese population has fallen into poverty. The World Bank says it is one of the worst depressions of modern times.

Early in the crisis, Lebanon defaulted on its massive pile of public debt, including $31 billion of Eurobonds that remain outstanding to creditors. The currency has fallen by more than 90%, badly denting purchasing power in a country dependent on imports.

The banking system has been utterly paralysed. With depositors locked out of foreign currency savings or forced to withdraw cash in the collapsing local currency, this currently equates to a de facto slump in the value of deposits of 80%. Food prices have jumped by 557% since Oct. 2019 according to the World Food Programme. Petrol has also been in short supply, forcing motorists to queue for hours outside gas stations to fill up their tanks.

Fed up with the terribly poor financial health of the nation and faced with a predicament where creature comforts are a luxury, many of Lebanon’s most qualified have left the country in a steady brain drain.

The fuel shortages have led to confrontations at petrol stations. Fuel tankers have been hijacked. It is high time this lawlessness was curbed. The new Lebanese government has a daunting task ahead and must swing into action to check the utter despair that is overarching.

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