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The lack of funds in EDL’s account at Lebanon’s Central Bank (BDL) is delaying the unloading of essential Iraqi fuel oil for the country’s power plants, which is currently stored on board the tanker Sky Rider off the coast of Lebanon.

Consequently, the risk of Lebanon being plunged into total darkness starting Monday is significantly increasing. This situation has been unequivocally announced in the media by Caretaker Minister of Energy and Water Walid Fayad and Sajih Attiyeh, an MP from Akkar and president of the parliamentary committee on Public Works.

This same recurring pattern hasn’t scared the Lebanese, as they have been living with sporadic electricity for four decades. They have had plenty of time to find alternatives to the power supplied by EDL, albeit at a high cost.

One-month Reprieve

The balance of EDL’s account at BDL is only fifty million dollars. Efforts are underway to purchase thirty thousand tons of gas from a source other than Iraq to extend the reprieve and avoid a total power outage. In this scenario, the reprieve would barely last a month.

In fact, EDL’s budget shortfall is significantly impacting its operations. To outline the situation, outstanding balances from EDL subscribers total nearly four hundred million dollars, with public institutions owing 106 million dollars. Additionally, only 180 out of 900 Syrian refugee camps have paid their debts to EDL. Moreover, there are 6,000 smaller Syrian refugee entities whose electricity consumption from EDL is not being recorded.

The Lack of Collectors

In this context, it’s pertinent to question the whereabouts of EDL’s electricity bill collectors, who have been practically absent for three months. According to a source from EDL contacted by This is Beirut, issues with billing and recurring strikes have been cited as reasons. This situation is concerning, especially when compared to the punctual billing of private generator services, underscoring EDL’s ongoing administrative challenges. This dysfunction isn’t new; it has become chronic. As a side note, the next electricity consumption billing by EDL is scheduled for July 2023, marking a one-year delay.

Mansouri in a Dilemma

BDL’s Acting Governor Wassim Mansouri has consistently emphasized the need to obtain parliamentary approval for expenditures outside budgetary allocations. However, he made an exception once for the Ministry of Energy to ensure the continuity of public services. On that occasion, he pledged not to repeat such action. The 2024 Finance Law does not address any debt provisions.

In fact, the government has submitted a bill to Parliament to allocate funds to EDL. However, the constitutionality of such a move is being contested by certain parliamentary blocs. They argue that Parliament cannot exercise its legislative functions while acting as an electoral body tasked with electing a head of state.