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The stain of shame

Ships or power plants? Who cares? Just make a decision! The country is trying to move forward and make itself competitive while experiencing the biggest real estate – residential and commercial – boom in its history. The result: the private sector is setting a pace with which an imbecilic government cannot keep up. But even more important than the economic and infrastructure needs are those of the Lebanese people. Every time the light goes out is a reminder their government appears not to care one jot, either for their livelihood or their dignity.
 
The situation is not destined to get better any time soon. It was reported on NOW Lebanon on Saturday that within four to six months, a five-year maintenance project on the Zouk and Jiyyeh power plants will begin. The work, we were told by a member of the Energy Ministry (surely that’s the non-Energy Ministry), would take up to five years and reduce our power output even further.
 
Things could not be any worse for the so-called most vibrant and exciting country in the region. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitive Report for 2011-2012, Lebanon ranks 141 out of 142 in “quality of electricity supply.” We are behind Angola with only Nepal ranking lower.
 
This government – although we could be talking about every government since the end of the civil war – has failed in its duty to its people, ignoring or paying scant attention to our electricity and water needs. There is no focus. Politics is primitive, ugly, partisan and sectarian, defined by in-fighting and self-interest. The electricity scandal – let us not mince our words – is a stain of shame on modern Lebanese society.
 
But five years? Does the ministry, any ministry, or even the government for that matter, know what it will be doing next week, let alone in five years? It is comforting that the state knows how long we will have to get by on less power but has no idea as to when our national malaise will be cured once and for all. The government talks of ships and new power plants but nothing happens, and in 20 years, not one plan to resolve the issue and meet capacity has been seriously adopted. Meanwhile, demand is increasing as new, more modern buildings are being thrown up.
 
But it is not only the practical limitations that affect our ability to function as a nation. There is also the drain on the soul, on living with the expectation of sudden darkness. Even for those who are lucky enough to have access to a generator, it can take its toll.
 
And of course Lebanon being Lebanon, there is a grubby side to the culture of neglect. What little revenue streams the state has at its disposal have been depleted even further by theft, while it is an open secret that after two decades of state failure, unscrupulous private suppliers with significant lobbying powers have stepped in to make up the shortfall. Knowing Lebanon as we do, it is a fair bet to assume that these business owners have a vested interest in the state’s inability to do its job.
 
The energy crisis must be the priority on the government’s agenda. As the summer tourist season approaches, the state must be seen to act. Prime Minister Najib Mikati, a man who by all accounts does not need to feather his nest, must make electricity his number one priority. Private suppliers must be regulated, while a tender must be announced for the complete overhaul of Lebanon’s national grid. Bids should be public and the whole process must enjoy an unprecedented level of transparency. In the meantime, the government must do everything in its power to establish a stop-gap solution. If Lebanon is not destined to limp on for another 20 years, there can be no other way.

  • Marco Antonio

    Sami, majd's real name is Shame, majd is just his alias. Why don't you address him by his real name from here on? Shame, that's his real name and it fits him nicely in every way just like a hand in glove... Call him Shame, he enjoys it, it's really him for he is Shame....

    April 5, 2012

  • Dandoon

    Majed and Sami u are implementing what our politicians are doing. "I am right and u are wrong and here's my argument.." Politicians should be held accountable for all their negligence. The people's job is to demand their rights. It's not our job to check and argue why things aren't being done!! Well if politicians are acting like children we should treat them like ones. My mother used to tell me and my brother: "I don't want to know who's fought is that.. U are both grounded" We will hit the streets averyday untill reforms are done..

    April 4, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, for all the free people - Israel, Iranian regime, and Syrian regime are the same. Too bad you are not free to know what that means. You are a political and religious salve.

    April 1, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, the more you hate Iran the more imagine things about it, and the more you love your filthy arab failing states the more you deny their miserable situation. Iran, like it or not, despite all the siege against it, has managed to be one major world power which is self sufficient in many areas, and if it is true what you claim about Iran then it is so easy for the west to destroy Iran in no time. get real ya sami, i wonder what planet you live on! Iran is challenging israel and the west and is figting them in many fronts while your filthy Arabs are begging the west to help them topple Bashar at any cost. Iran is nuclear and is saving its oil for future generations, Iran manufactures almost everything from missiles to toothpicks, while your filthy rich arabs waste their money in Wall Street and on detergent factories. Iran is nation of pride and honour while your Arabs are a nation of submissiveness and treason and conspiracies one against the other. Vive Iran, Vive Bashar,down israe

    March 31, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, you accuse me of supporting Qatar???!!! are you serious? IT WAS YOU NOT ME that sang and danced for Sheikh Hameeeeed and Sheikha Moza when they visited you in the south, NOT ME! by the way, did you reserve your seat at the Saha restaurant? I hear you people are going to have a big welcome back party for the israeli agent Fayez Karam - thanks to your parliament deputies that voted to shorten the prison year for him to get out early! And your ally Michel Aoun is goign to have a senven day / senven night party for his long time companion and israeli agent.

    March 31, 2012

  • Sami

    Majd, The regime of the ayatolahs has 4 million drug adicts. They have 80% unemployment among university graduates. Iran imports 80% of its gasoline from outside and more than 50% of its food. Most people in Iran would imigrate and leave Iran if someone gives them a visa to go somewhere. I bet you don't even have one Iranian friend and I bet you don't know how Iranian people think. I have many Iranian friends and I know very well how they think. They hate you! They will come after you one day.

    March 31, 2012

  • ali daoud

    sami, hate is blind, your Arabs are failure itself, they fail in everything even when they pay money, Iran is nuclear and you are here claiming they can`t do electricity. any way, mabrouk 3layk saudi and qatar and Libya wmabrouk 3laye Iran and syria.

    March 30, 2012

  • Sami

    majd, iran is a total failure. their ayatolahs don't know much about electricity.

    March 30, 2012

  • ali daoud

    the shame lies in the fact that Iran offered to build two electricity factories that will generate 24 hrs elctricity in one year at a total cost of usd 900 million which can be paid through payments, however, our government didn`t dare to respond to that offer, it didn`t dare to discuss it! and yet the reason is obvious, some people in our government have no problem if we stay in dark in case fixing the problem would generate the US or saudi upset.

    March 29, 2012

  • Rikki

    @Elie the writer wrote "This government – although we could be talking about every government since the end of the civil war – has failed in its duty to its people, ignoring or paying scant attention to our electricity and water needs" ie he was critical of all govts.

    March 27, 2012

  • Abou Ali

    Why bother? Tomorrow Hezbollah will provoke Irael and everything will be demolished again....

    March 27, 2012

  • Sami

    Elie, Rafik Hariri goverments built the power plants and fixed the distribution and Lebanon enjoyed 24/24 electricity for few years before the ministers of Amel and Hizballah and Aoun and their allies ruined it. And they are continuing to ruin it, by insisting on the public sector maintaining ownership of this industry. They also want the goverment to borrow more money! did they not always ctriticize goverment debt and goverment borrowing? who is going to lend more money to this bankrupt country? would Basil lend this country one penny from his pocket? The main issue with electricity is collection and the stealing of electricity. Borrowing more billions will not solve this issue. Fixing it the way they are suggesting is as we say in Lebanon "dawini ballti kanit heya alda2ou"! walk in offices of Electricite Du Liban and tell me if you have the courage to use their bathrooms. If they can't keep those bathrooms clean, do you think they can profitably generate and sell electricity?

    March 27, 2012

  • Sami

    the eletricity issue has become the cause of most of our ills in Lebanon, from the food and health safety issues, to high business failure rate. For these and many other reasons, goverments all over the world have turned power generation and distribution to private business. Privatization is the only solution. It is ironic that those who stand against privatization don't beleive in anything the goverment does.They send their kids to private schools,they treat themselves and their families in private hospitals, and they rely on private generators for their own electric consumption. The fact of the matter is that we have privatization of electricity - but it is the worst kind. Be it the private generators operating and selling electricity, or the foreign companies that Electricite Du Liban rely on to maintain and operate power generation plants and distribution networks. These companies in current situation are guranteed profit while the goverment and people are guaranteed losses!

    March 27, 2012

  • alsidani

    YOU WRITE ABOUT A STAIN OF SHAME, STAINS ARE ONLY VISIBLE ON A CLEAN BACKGROUND .HOWEVER ALL THE POLITICAL SCENE IS FILTHY SO YOU CANT DISTINCT ANYMORE ALL THE DIRT ACCUMULATING IN OUR SOCIETY A LOT CAN BE DONE FROM PRESEVARTION TO GENERATION TO SOLAR PANELS HO SUBSIDIES (HONEST INSTALATION) SO WE CAN JOIN THE RANK OF DEVELOPING NATIONS IN TERM OF ELECTRICITY INDEPENDENCE

    March 26, 2012