| 16 April 2024, Tuesday |

Lebanon could sink like Titanic, parliament speaker warns

Influential parliamentary speaker Nabih Berri said on Monday that Lebanon would sink like the Titanic if it could not form a cabinet as he opened a session to approve emergency funds to literally keep the lights on for two more months.

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

Lebanon is in the throes of a financial crisis that poses the biggest threat to its stability since the 1975-1990 civil war. Without a new cabinet, it cannot enforce the reforms required to unlock desperately needed foreign aid.

But President Michel Aoun and prime minister-designate Saad al-Hariri have been at loggerheads for months over the makeup of a new government.

Parliament approved a loan of $200 million to pay for fuel for Lebanon’s electricity company after a warning by the energy ministry that cash had run out for electricity generation beyond the end of the month.

Cesar Abi Khalil, a member of parliament and former energy minister, told Reuters that “this should be enough for electricity for almost two months or two-and-a-half.”

The Zahrani power plant, one of Lebanon’s 4 main electricity producers, has already had to close for 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.”

Lebanon already lacks power generation capacity and homes and businesses have to cope with power outages for multiple hours a day, forcing many to turn to private generators.

  • Reuters