(Photo credit: Al-Ahed News)
Reports in Arabic media have revealed that the World Bank is preventing Lebanon from acquiring electricity by obstructing the agreement to import Egyptian gas into the country via Jordan and Syria.
The Lebanese Ministry of Energy has reportedly fulfilled all the necessary requirements, yet the World Bank has refused to approve the funding for the gas transfer and is waiting on the completion of a “political feasibility study,” Al-Akhbar reported.
The World Bank has not disclosed the purpose of this study nor its motives for undertaking it. When asked about the details of the study, bank officials responded: “We raised the question to the administration, and it has no comment.”
“We did what had to be done and as required. Technically, everything related to the infrastructure for the reception of electricity from Jordan and gas from Egypt is ready,” Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said.
“We took one million dollars from the Banque du Liban and spent it on maintaining the [gas] line in cooperation with the Egyptian company that will operate it in the future. It is now ready and compressed with nitrogen in preparation for its replacement with gas,” Fayyad said.
Lebanon’s state power company, Électricité du Liban (EDL) has conducted a technical inspection of the Deir Ammar power station, which was shut down earlier this month due to lack of funding.
The inspection revealed that Syria is capable of providing more than twice the amount of gas to Lebanon that it needs, which is around nine million cubic meters of natural gas per day.
Fayyad expressed his shock on 21 April, when it was initially announced that the World Bank had refused to finance the transfer of Egyptian and Jordanian energy sources to Lebanon.
“I don’t know the meaning of the political feasibility they are talking about, which is the excuse behind this delay, and I’m in constant contact with the World Bank administration, US Ambassador Dorothy Shea, and French Ambassador Anne Grillo,” the energy minister stated at the time.
In addition to lack of funding, the project has another obstacle: the attainment of clearance from the US.
The transfer of Egyptian and Jordanian energy resources involves Syria as the intermediary, which requires sanction waivers that exempt this project from the Caesar Act sanctions placed on Syria by the US.
During a visit to Egypt on 14 April, Fayyad revealed that the US-sponsored plan to import gas from Egypt through Syria is still waiting for guarantees from Washington to exempt both Beirut and Cairo from the sanctions.