The Cabinet Monday sent a strong signal to the international community about its resolve to enact reforms by unanimously endorsing a new electricity plan aiming to reform the dilapidated sector, boost power supply and reduce subsidies to the state-run Electricite du Liban, estimated at $2 billion annually.
The announcement was made by Prime Minister Saad Hariri following a special Cabinet meeting chaired by President Michel Aoun and devoted to the electricity plan.
“The Cabinet unanimously approved the electricity plan with all its provisions amid a very positive atmosphere. … This plan will satisfy the Lebanese people because it will ensure for them 24-hour electricity and also reduce the budget deficit,” Hariri told reporters after the meeting at Baabda Palace.
He said the plan’s approval would send a “positive” message to all international institutions, including rating agencies, that “Lebanon is taking real steps for reforms.”
Hariri said the Cabinet decided that the Central Inspection Bureau’s Tenders Department and a technical committee from the Energy Ministry would handle the tenders for implementation – a major bone of contention among political parties that had hindered an agreement on the blueprint that was presented to the government by Energy Minister Nada Boustani last month.
One sticking point still to be resolved is the formation of the National Electricity Regulatory Authority established years ago to organize and control the sector.
“We are working to form the regulatory authority,” Hariri said.
The electricity plan had been agreed upon by a ministerial committee headed by Hariri after four rounds of discussions last week. The committee at the time failed to agree upon who would carry out the tenders to implement the blueprint.
Hariri underlined the need for the quick implementation of the plan, warning that the state’s finances could not endure a further delay. “The electricity bidding should take place as soon as possible. Anyone who is negligent in this issue will pay the price.“The state finances cannot [endure] a postponement of work with this plan even for one day,” Hariri said.
“We tell the Lebanese that we have endorsed this plan positively. This is an achievement for all political parties,” he said, praising Boustani for the “great efforts she made in the past weeks.”
Hariri added that the Cabinet agreed to renew Law 288, dated 2014, which empowers the Cabinet to grant temporary permits and licenses to produce electricity upon the proposal of the energy and finance ministers.
Hariri also assured the Lebanese that the electricity plan would not be doomed like previous plans.
“With the presence of President Michel Aoun, myself and amid Cabinet unanimity, this plan will be implemented,” he said.
The Daily Star