The failure to fix the electricity sector offers a glimpse into how Lebanon got into its worst crisis since the 15-year civil war that ended in 1990. ", Haaretz.com, the online edition of Haaretz Newspaper in Israel, and analysis from Israel and the Middle East, © Haaretz Daily Newspaper Ltd. All Rights Reserved. Why shouldn't there be one in the Christian area? He's also seen as the leader of the country's Sunni community. "Hariri and this regime can't give us our services, because to satisfy their way of politics, they can't form a real government," said 25-year-old activist Tarek Khalil. Hariri would take over from caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, a technocrat who was brought to power by a Hezbollah-backed parliamentary coalition majority. ", "What happened on October 17 is we broke a wall.". The group is today more deeply involved in state affairs than ever. Successive governments have vowed to fix this but never delivered. "We will go down to the streets and we will pressure either until he falls or until he proves us wrong," said Nassar. "The situation isn't just bad. When Diab, a Sunni Muslim under the sectarian system, took office in January this year – the previous government had resigned after street protests – he vowed to press on with long-delayed reforms, including measures to stamp out corruption and improve tax collection. The French presidential palace declined to comment on the conversation. "This is the worst year, in everything. Electricity (generation) must be distributed, for the integrity of the network, ask any expert. As the voltage is different in Lebanon you need to use a power converter for Lebanon if your charger or appliance isn't dual voltage and check that it can work with a 50hz power outlet. Speaking about the protest movement which Jaber says he "saw coming," he argues that the absence of a political structure caused its eventual fizzling out. For many Lebanese, it was just the latest neglect by a sectarian elite that has for decades failed to provide the most basic services. Jan Kubis, UN special coordinator for Lebanon, said that without reforming the electricity sector through "immediate, tangible and technically and economically sound measures, Lebanon cannot stop the deepening economic and social collapse (and) the Lebanese are doomed to increasing misery, that they cannot and will not tolerate. Drone footage shows the scale of destruction in Beirut, French President Macron: No blank checks will be given, French President Emmanuel Macron on August 6. The parliamentary bloc Jaber is affiliated one of those political groups widely accused of corruption by the popular movement. Almost a third of the labor force is now believed to be unemployed while triple-digit inflation is making the cost of living prohibitive for those who still have jobs. EdL's problems run deep. ", Activists acknowledge Hariri's expected return as a setback. "Why should the Sunnis get a plant in Deir Ammar and the Shi'ites in Zahrani, for example? This did not go down well with donors, the international sources and other attendees said. ", Asked by Reuters whether his party was promoting a plant at Selaata for sectarian reasons, Free Patriotic Movement leader Bassil replied: "When you want to talk, in Lebanon, about balanced development and the (geographical) distribution of projects, this cannot apply to one side and not the others. But like many activists in Beirut, they say that the coming together of a population traditionally split between sectarian parties is not enough. "Financing two power plants will be difficult, and they want us to finance a third without any credible explanation. The economy is in free fall and half the population is impoverished, but the power elite isn't going anywhere. The port explosion finally did the Diab government in, and since then Lebanon has been without a permanent government again. The main parties dominating Lebanon - Sunni, Shi'ite, Druze and Christian - have all carved out spheres of influence in the state which they have exploited to their own end, while blaming each other for the mess. The popular movement which began last October 17 has shied away from political participation, largely refused to negotiate with the country's sectarian leadership, and insisted that it was a "leaderless" grouping expressing widespread disgruntlement with the ruling political elite. Documents seen by Reuters and interviews with more than a dozen officials with knowledge of the matter together reveal how the Free Patriotic Movement refused to give ground even as questions grew around the Selaata project's viability and it became clear donors would not finance it as part of immediate steps to overhaul the power sector. In any case, the opposition front is En Marche, Mr. Macron,'" Issa said. Updated 1500 GMT (2300 HKT) October 21, 2020. "I wasn't sure if I could make it today, so I wrote you an open letter just in case," Issa recalled telling Macron. Diab stepped down about a week after the August 4 explosion as Beirut's streets roiled with angry demonstrations. Issa -- a bespectacled 63-year-old who is Secretary General of Lebanon's non-sectarian National Bloc party -- was one of thousands of people who were injured in the. According to Issa, Macron, in turn, told him what he would that evening repeat to members of the Lebanese press: that the political alternative to Lebanon's loathed confessional power-sharing system does not yet exist, and that the country's reform process -- later known as "the French initiative" -- would have to be enacted through traditional sectarian political parties. ", Asked why the Free Patriotic Movement is pressing for a power plant at Selaata, Free Patriotic Movement leader Gebran Bassil told Reuters: "My insistence is on 24-hour electricity. The World Bank didn't comment when asked by Reuters whether it had alerted the authorities to such long-held concerns. We're definitely going from street to office. "The ice cream fridge, you come at night, there's no electricity, it's all a loss. What’s next? Still, he believes it's important to have one a few kilometres away in the Christian district, reflecting the type of factional thinking that endures in Lebanon, a country that was fractured into sectarian cantons during the civil war. "The doctor needs to be a government that comes in to do the necessary cleaning up, the necessary patching. Camille Abou Suleiman, a former labor minister allied with the second biggest Christian bloc in parliament, a rival to the Free Patriotic Movement, said the FPM's intransigence was wasting valuable time. In a country of only six million, mired in factional, sectarian politics, Beirut blast highlights need for fundamental change. Lebanon is also importing electricity from Syria. But many in Lebanon argue that a Hariri government, particularly one that satisfies the demands of the international donor community, is imperative. The majority of the cabinet was in favor, wanting the process moved along, political sources said. Issa said he berated Macron for excluding major figures in Lebanon's year-long popular uprising from talks about the crisis-ridden country's immediate political future. It took three months to form a government after Hariri announced he was stepping down, but the new premier, the hapless Hassan Diab, made no headway at all in the nine months he was in power. "I won't accept it," said Nabti. As part of efforts to guide Lebanon, the World Bank commissioned French power company Electricite de France (EDF) to draw up a plan for the least costly options for generating power in the next decade. Centre stage in the row over electricity is the biggest Christian bloc, the Free Patriotic Movement, which was founded by President Michel Aoun and has defined itself as a protector of Christian rights. The party is led by Aoun's son-in-law, Bassil, a former energy minister. "We spent 10 days without any electricity at all," said Samira al-Azar, a gym manager, who joined protests last month outside the state power firm's Beirut headquarters, its yellow fence recently topped with barbed wire. What Lebanon needs, he said, is fundamental change. Lebanon Location 270-692-6091 Bowling Green Location 270-842-7147 As of August 2016, electricity generation capacity in Lebanon still does not meet the country's demand. There was no need to totally rule out Selaata, he said, "but why hold up the whole process? For many Lebanese, the state's inability to deliver reliable electricity has become a metaphor for their country's wider failings. The so-called French initiative which brokered the political process following the blast led to the naming of a Hariri-backed diplomat, Mustapha Adib, for the premiership. Beirut, Lebanon (CNN)Pierre Issa arrived at a meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron on August 6 with 10 stitches on his face, two chipped teeth and a few broken bones. He said he had not noticed "anybody being surprised.". These days their house only gets one to two hours of power a day from the grid and the local generator isn't filling the gaps, so Elhani takes his son to friends' homes in search of electricity. "Switch off the lights at the rulers' houses, light up the people's houses," chanted the crowd. Why don't you say this about those who want a plant in Deir Ammar? The past year has seen Lebanon side relentlessly, if not quite into the ranks of failed states, into the ranks of thoroughly dysfunctional states. And they say it has also pushed them to shift gears. After French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said, during a visit to Beirut in July, that steps to tackle the power sector were not encouraging, Prime Minister Diab retorted that Le Drian didn't know enough about the "extent of the government's reforms." As hard as it is to believe, economically speaking the worst has yet to come. This is what Lebanon's popular movement now looks like, they say: activists taking to their laptops and organizing. It's not the time to take a (Christian) community stand on this because we can't afford it.". A shouting match erupted on a widely-watched talk show in July when a pro-Aoun pundit yelled that Christians deserved their own power station. Since late 2019, the financial system has unravelled under the weight of public debt, shutting savers out of their bank accounts, triggering a sovereign default, crashing the currency and driving up poverty. Only for Selaata? In a written response to Reuters, Ghajar said EdL's financial position and service were improving. Hariri resigned following huge street protests in October 2019. "Movements like this need a face. Talks about a bailout plan with the International Monetary Fund collapsed without the sides even agreeing what the problems were that needed to be solved. If your device can run on 220 volts or is dual voltage and the plug fits in a Lebanese power outlet then you can use it in Lebanon without needing anything else. Donors saw it as a move in the right direction, said a senior European diplomat and four other international sources familiar with donor thinking. A Foreign Policy report says that whatever promises Hariri has made about appointing a cabinet of technocrats, the key finance and electricity portfolios will be going to be given to men in the Old Guard to ensure that the old corrupt way can go on undisturbed. It's really bad," said the father of six, who earns little over a dollar a day. "Strong political initiatives must be undertaken to fight corruption, to impose transparency and to carry out reforms put forward two years ago" at a conference of international donors in Paris, Macron said. The biggest Christian party in government, the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), wants to build a power station in a northern Christian area, on a rocky strip of Mediterranean coast near a village called Selaata.
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