Electricity was discovered in the year 1831 but Lebanon is yet to discover it. Iraq, we are told, was able to make electricity available almost immediately after having its main power stations demolished, but Lebanon is still unable to resolve its problem of current interruption which has become more frequent.

The reasons include the installation of the wrong or defective turbines, the use of the wrong energy source to operate the turbines and the continuous refusal of communities like Zghorta in the North and the southern suburbs of Beirut to pay their bills, along with the refugee camps and certain ‘above-the-line’ politicians and businessmen.

Add to this the fact that Lebanon generates 2,300 MW (nominal capacity) or 15% more than its consumption of 1,900 MW –2,000 MW but is unable to deliver the current. Capacity drops to 1,600 MW -1,800 Mw due to breakdowns and the capacity of network transmission is 1,400 MW (which has recently been increased). Lebanon paid $400 million for rehabilitating its transmission lines; the money is spent but the lines are lacking.

Why haven’t those problems been addressed? Conspiracy theory advocates insist that it is part of a plan by certain politicians to privatize the electricity sector and sell it off at the lowest price. Or is it simply due to the realpolitik of the Lebanese system? Irrespective of the reasons, the fact remains that Lebanon has paid approximately $1.8 billion to rehabilitate this sector, excluding interest fees that might bring it up to higher than $2.5 billion. The total cost of fuel and gas, maintenance and management reaches $800 million and total income comes to $400 million. This renders an annual loss of $400 million that can be turned into profit if everyone pays the bills and necessary upgrades are applied.

However, one must point out that many villages in the North, South and the Bekaa that were denied electricity until the breakout of war in 1975 are now connected - an improvement on the ‘good old Lebanon’. The question is how can a government that is presently unable to collect its bills later be empowered to enforce collection on behalf of a private firm? Such are the wonders of Lebanon.

Jawad Adra