image Photo: Reuters

Lebanon could sink like Titanic, says official

The Speaker of Lebanon’s parliament issued an urgent appeal for the approval of emergency funds to literally keep the lights on for two more months.

“The whole country is in danger, the whole country is the Titanic,” said Nabih Berri, stressing that, “It’s time we all woke up because in the end, if the ship sinks, there’ll be no one left.”

The veteran politician then added his voice to a chorus of others pleading for the formation of the next government. Berri, who has been Speaker of the Parliament since 1992, heads the Shi’ite Islamic Amal party that is aligned with the Iran-backed Hezbollah terror movement.

Lebanon is in the throes of its worst crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war on the brink of total financial collapse rooted in decades of corruption and debt. There has been an outpouring of public unrest and street protest over the dire economic decline and political instability since October 2019.

Prime Minister-Designate Saad al-Hariri and President Michel Aoun have been locked in a months-long dispute over the composition of a new cabinet that must enact critical reform to unlock foreign aid.

Beirut lawmakers greenlighted an emergency loan of $200 million to pay for fuel to generate electricity, after a warning by the Energy Ministry that funds needed to operate power plants beyond the end of the month had been depleted.

“This should be enough for electricity for around two months or two-and-a-half,” Cesar Abi Khalil, Member of Parliament (MP)and former Energy Minister, told Reuters.

Lebanon has already been grappling with electrical shortages, with homes and businesses experiencing a lack of power for several hours each day. The Zahrani power plant, one of the country’s 4 main electricity producers, shut down earlier this week due to the lack of fuel.

“Any shutdown in one of these big plants affects power generation negatively,” Abi Khalil said. “This means Lebanese make up for it with generators that run on diesel that’s 30% more expensive than the fuel that’s bought by the electricity company.”

Other legislation approved by Parliament to help banks recover stolen public funds was greeted by open skepticism – even by those involved in the act’s passage.

“Effectively, all these texts cannot be implemented,” said Shi’ite MP and former Lebanese General Security Directorate head Jamil al-Sayyed, who is also allied with the powerful Hezbollah political and paramilitary group.

Although never charged with a crime, Sayyed was  detained from 2005 to 2009 over his suspected involvement in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, who was the father of the current designated premier.

“What’s happening is a charade,” Sayyed said in televised comments, “We’re lying to you.”