Cabinet approves energy minister's electricity proposal
Cabinet Thursday approved a proposal by Energy Minister Cesar Abi Khalil to revive the country’s ailing electricity sector, with Abi Khalil telling reporters after the session that "most of the items" on his proposal were approved. Cabinet decided to "extend Law 54, which allows the private sector to generate electricity in line with Energy and Finance ministry proposals," Abi Khalil said. Abi Khalil warned that Lebanon would be facing an electricity shortage this coming summer, as it did last summer, and said additional electricity could be generated if measures were taken quickly. Although Cabinet has agreed on the power-plant approach, nothing further down the line has been approved. Out of 13 items in the electricity proposal, only five were approved, local media outlet MTV reported. Abi Khalil was asked to take the necessary measures regarding the items proposed and then refer the file to Parliament. Cabinet also approved a proposal by Youth and Sports Minister Mohammad Fneish relating to tightening security during Lebanon’s football cup, Bou Assi said. During the Cabinet session, which tackled an over 60-item agenda, President Michel Aoun requested a public holiday from May 4 to 7, "to facilitate the electoral process," as parliamentary elections are scheduled for May 6. Prime Minister Saad Hariri and Aoun met before the session, as is customary. Abi Khalil’s proposals to boost electricity provision included the lease of two additional power barges from Turkish company Karadeniz Holding, and the extension of its contracts for two existing barges. Several ministers have strongly opposed this plan, challenging it over what they see as its lack of transparency and unnecessary expense. Speaking before the session, Abi Khalil said that he would exert all efforts to pass as many items as possible in the proposed plan. "There are several proposals presented [that are intended to] compensate for the delay in the electricity plan," he said. "The deal of buying electricity from Syria is in the plan proposed today."