Energy Minister Gebran Bassil slammed Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s plan countering his proposal to lease electricity-generating barges, warning of dire consequences were his plan to be rejected in favor of Mikati’s.
Bassil, who had previously warned that the country could suffer electricity cuts for almost 12 hours a day were the Cabinet to fail to approve his plan, reiterated his position that Lebanon is facing a major electricity problem given that demand in the summer is expected to rise to 3,000 MW per day.
Energy production currently stands at below 1,500 MW per day.
In a news conference at MP Michel Aoun’s residence in Rabieh, Bassil described Miktai’s proposal, expected to be discussed Wednesday in Cabinet, as lacking “seriousness and professionalism.”
“There are 10 mistakes in the report ... it does not contain the least bit of seriousness and professionalism and it also contradicts the opinions of Mikati’s consultants,” he said.
Bassil also defended his proposal to lease electricity-generating barges, saying that during this difficult time of energy shortages, any proposal is better than none.
Talk of a looming Cabinet crisis surfaced last week, when Mikati voiced his objections to Bassil’s plan to lease electricity-generating barges and presented a counter plan suggesting alternatives.
In Mikati’s report, which he submitted to Cabinet, he outlines what he considers flaws in Bassil's proposal. He says leasing the barges is a short-term plan since it would only produce additional energy for five years, while building new power plants, using the same money, would produce energy for at least 25 years.
Mikati has proposed opening up bidding to companies willing to build power plants that would provide 500 MW to 1,000 MW per day and also rehabilitate three power plants in the country.
During his conference Tuesday, Bassil maintained that the barges were part of a larger plan that also includes rehabilitating power plants and building new ones aimed at producing 700 MW per day.
He added that leasing the barges would cost the treasury an additional $180 million but would save the Lebanese $400 million otherwise spent on generators.
“We are in desperate need of additional energy ... what could be worse than the current situation?” Bassil asked. He warned of dire consequences if his proposal to lease the ships were not approved and said the blame would fall on President Michel Sleiman or Mikati.
He added that the Change and Reform bloc would resign if the government remains unproductive, but did hold out hope that the various ministerial factions could arrive at a consensual arrangement, saying that if ministers do not agree on one of the plans put forth, a vote could break the deadlock.
“I don’t understand why we would not agree, but if we don’t, we would vote,” he said.