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Monday, August 8, 2022

Lebanon, which is starved for cash, is unable to turn on the lights on election day

According to the interior ministry, Lebanon’s electrical energy company would charge $16 million to supply electricity on the day of the May 15 parliamentary elections, an amount that surpasses the general election budget by over 30%. The parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 15.

Holding credible elections is certainly one of the most important measures Lebanon’s major donors are demanding on in order to provide more assistance to the country, which is embroiled in a grave monetary crisis fueled by widespread corruption.

The state-owned Electricite du Liban (EDL) provided a quotation of $16 million to the federal government, which is attempting to provide voting locations with just half a day’s worth of electricity for the crucial election.

Inside Minister Bassam Mawlawi said, “I met with EDL on a number of occasions, and it seemed to me that they were unable to provide electricity except at very high costs.”

“The whole election process, both domestically and internationally, does not cost this much,” Mawlawi said, adding that his total budget for the election was limited to $12.5 million.

According to Mawlawi, despite repeated rumours to the contrary, the federal administration is putting up efforts to ensure that the elections go place as planned.

Because the federal government cannot pay gas for energy stations, Lebanon has been suffering from severe energy shortages for over a year. The country has been coping with an unparalleled financial calamity since 2019, and it defaulted on its debt in March 2020.

In most locations, power outages may persist for up to 22 hours a day, requiring many people to rely on expensive generator subscriptions to keep the lights on throughout the day.

In order to distribute billions of dollars in badly needed monetary assistance, the international community has long called for a complete revamp of Lebanon’s loss-making electrical energy industry, which has cost the government more than $40 billion since the end of the 1975-1990 civil war.

Mawlawi said that the EDL had asked payment in cash for its services.
Mawlawi said that the federal government may use private turbines to power polling centres, which would need electrical energy to illuminate the chamber at night time when the results are tabulated immediately after polls close, according to Mawlawi.

As the interior minister put it, “I am unable to put my faith in the state because EDL cannot guarantee strong outcomes… which could result in a sudden power outage.” Regardless of the high price demanded, “EDL cannot guarantee strong outcomes… which could result in a sudden power outage,” he said.

“The problem of electrical energy is the most serious issue facing Lebanon right now… but we can resolve it in time for the elections,” he said.
Lebanon’s energy crisis is just one of the country’s numerous financial problems, with foreign currency losing more than 90 percent of its value.

The vast majority of Lebanon’s population lives below the poverty level. Energy outages result in streets that are gloomy at night and security cameras that are out of date, leading in an increase in some types of crime, according to Mawlawi, who also cited rising poverty as a driving force behind the increase in crime.

Armed robberies increased by 135 percent in 2021 when compared to the previous year, while automobile theft increased by almost one-fourth during the same time period, according to ministry data.

At the same time, Lebanon’s security forces have been weakened as a consequence of officers who have given up looking for other employment since their wages barely cover the cost of basic food for a family of four.

No less than 478 safety officers employed by the Internal Security Forces or the Common Security Company have resigned their positions since the start of the nation’s tragedy, according to documentation provided by the Ministry of Public Safety.

“There is a negative side effect,” Mawlawi told AFP. “However, the number of people who are defecting is not a large number. “We must never overestimate the importance of the problem,” he said.

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