Lebanon’s Electricity Crisis

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Jubran Bassil, current Minister of energy, during a press conference. (Photo: Marwan Bu Haidar)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Thursday, January 5, 2012

From one year to the next, everyone in Lebanon reverts to the waiting game.

The country’s political fate, and even its social and economic fate, remain hostage to the outcomes of the ongoing confrontation over Syria.

The fate of people’s daily needs, meanwhile, depends on creating new realities on the ground – to stop the powers-that-be from holding peoples’ interests hostage to their political and personal calculations.

A proportion of Lebanon’s citizens have the financial resources to spend the equivalent of the monthly minimum wage on securing an uninterrupted supply of electrical power. This is paid to a combination of Electricite du Liban and the owners of generators. No more than ten percent of Lebanese fall into this category. The remainder of the people are divided into two: those who can afford to pay around US$100 to the corporation and private suppliers, and those who spend long hours in darkness.

The electricity problem does not discriminate between Lebanon’s citizens. The statistics do not point to any political or sectarian variation. Hence the simple but daunting question: who’s preventing the electricity issue in Lebanon from being tackled?

The officials concerned – premiers, ministers, deputies, technicians and senior bureaucrats – can continue engaging in a blame-game about this for another two decades. This is due to the fact that the public, though suffering from the electricity crisis in common, is quick to divide over it. The wronged thus turn into supporters or opponents of this or that official.

Yet the result remains at the end of the day: the power stays out, while those with high incomes can enjoy the blessings of uninterrupted electricity from whatever source, whether state or private sector. This includes all those premiers, ministers, deputies, senior bureaucrats and others. Those who vie with each other to block solutions to the electricity shortage, in other words, are not personally affected by it. And the public, united by the problem yet divided by political and sectarian alignments, ends up hurling whatever curses it can at the state.

That being the case, what solution can there be?

Naturally, nobody expects the government to embark on a remedy without taking into account the political identity of whoever is in charge of the venture. This means that the crisis can be expected to continue so long as an Aounist minister is responsible for the task. The same would apply if a Haririst minister were brought in. That means that there is no sign of a solution in prospect.

Naturally, the Lebanese will not wake up to find they have been anonymously donated a gift of round-the-clock electrical power. Rather, they will continue protesting, complaining, and cursing this or that official.

Naturally, there will be no consensus enabling a unified popular movement to emerge and force the authorities to genuinely initiate a scheme to restore the country’s electrical power, even within a certain time frame.

So what can change things in a case like this?

Only madness.

Only to emerge from homes and neighborhoods, from crowded quarters and neglected villages, and proceed directly, without permission or authorization, to the homes and offices of the officials; to their public or private headquarters, to their factories, to the restaurants they eat at and the cafes they frequent; and for people to set out – in their madness – to wreak havoc in these places, and to deny them electricity, even candles, and cigarette lighters if need be.

Only madness can force everyone who can spend US$400 per month on uninterrupted electricity to keep their money, and make them feel that such currency is no longer in circulation in Lebanon.

Faced with all this continuing abuse; faced with this idiocy that controls peoples’ minds so they fail to act or protest against all this continuing abuse; and faced with the indifference that prevails among those wielding the power to change things; we have nothing left but madness.

With madness, there is no need to wait for people to unite behind a leader, preacher or party line. There is no need to await a composition that takes account of sectarian and regional balances, or the rest of the filthy stock-in-trade of Lebanon’s sectarian political forces.

For madness, Lebanon would only need 100 young men women with the wits and the will to initiate a plan to ruin the lives of those who live in the lap of luxury and enjoy the trappings of privilege and influence; to employ legitimate violence to terrify them, and make them fear for their necks or their wallets, whichever. Such violence would force them to close ranks more than at present. But their unity might in turn help rid the street of its current divisions. And it would present the country with an inescapable choice: equality of benefit, or equality of damage.

One hundred young people embarking on such a festival of madness would open a breach in the solid wall built by the country’s sectarian forces and the gangs that thieve its public and private money.

And once this breach in opened, we can start hoping for a real state, even if it takes some time.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.


Well i guess polticians are like donkeys, they dont move unless kicked

Very interesting article !

The problem with Lebanon is that people love protecting the strong, rich and powerful and usually kicks the poor, unprivileged people to the ground.

Its true that one hundred modern Lebanese youth would change the course of Lebanese politics for good and politicians will run scared and wake up to the fact that if we dont divide the countries wealth in a democratic and fair way, everybody will loose but guess who would be the biggest looser if these peoples demands arent met ? The rich and wealthy.

The question remains when will this happen ? How brutal will the police be against these young youth ? Its unacceptable that Lebanon is becoming more capitalistic than the US.

As much as I agree something should be done about the ridiculous electricity situation in lebanon I strongly disagree with the idea the a violent protest is the solution to anything! Encouraging this type of behaviour is going back a hundred years, people defenitly need to start talking about the issue and making as public as possible but certainly not bring violence into this already unstable country

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