A series of crises have hit the Lebanese since the start of the new year, the most severe of which was perhaps more electricity rationing in most areas. No less important is the rationing of water and gas necessary for heating for a large part of the Lebanese population.
For the last few days, most areas have been suffering from severe power rationing, especially in the North and Beirut, which propelled a wave of anger among young people in Tripoli and compelled them to break into the electricity company in al-Bahsas amid high security measures. People also demonstrated in front of Electricite du Liban (EDL) in Beirut, the North and the South against the rationing, while others protested to demand that people stop paying their bills until the crisis is resolved.
“I have been going up eight flights of stairs for days now to get to my house because of the power cuts in Beirut” says Inas, while Ali, whose family does not have a backup generator, says his family “has had to rely on candle light for several nights due to the decreased supply of electricity.”
The majority of protesters blame this situation on the Free Patriotic Movement, whose ministers have held the Ministry of Energy and Water for the last decade. Minister of Energy and Water Nada Boustani has justified the rationing by saying that it is a consequence of the failure to unload the fuel tanker ships on the Lebanese coast because of weather conditions.
Boustani promised that the electricity will come back gradually starting Saturday after the tankers are unloaded, pointing out that EDL will be able to supply Administrative Beirut with power between 16 to 21 hours a day until the end of February and for 8 to 10 hours a day outside Beirut. What comes after that, depends on the amount allocated for its supply in the 2020 budget.
Ironically, during the winter, while there is a large amount of rainfall, Lebanese people are forced to buy water after the Lebanese water authority cut off water supply to most houses in Beirut. Najwa, a resident in Hamra Beirut, says: “We went without water for five days. It was supplied for a few hours yesterday before it was cut off again.”
The authorities blamed a malfunction in main water pipelines in more than one area in Lebanon.
During this time, a gas crisis is looming. Its signs started to show in the last few days, as the Lebanese rushed to buy gas in Saidon, Nabatieh and surrounding villages. Places that sell and fill up gas were consequently crowded because of the panic, especially since it is vital for heating during the harsh winter.
“Gas companies are rationing gas, they are not providing the market’s demand but only a small portion of it, almost half,” George Constantine, a gas shipping agent in Beirut, told Asharq Al-Awsat
“The rationing began one week before the end of 2019 due to delays in the arrival of gas tanker ships”.
Tensions between gas companies and distributors are high, leading to reduced numbers of wholesale gas containers as the gas companies want to increase their profit.
The challenges faced by the Lebanese people are exacerbated by the day due to the high cost of living, especially the massive hike in prices for consumer goods.
According to the head of the Consumer Association, Zuhair Berro, the majority of goods saw a 100 percent increase in prices due to the monetary crisis.
Berro points out that “the steepest rise in prices is on food commodities” and “even subsidized commodities, i.e. medicine, fuel and flour, which have also increased because these sectors are monopolized by cartels.”
He noted that according to the World Bank, the price of goods in Lebanon is 30 percent higher than any country in the region.
In this context, Mohamed Shams El-Din, a researcher in International Information, revealed that 55 percent of the Lebanese people live below the poverty line, and a quarter of the Lebanese people earn an income that does not suffice to provide them with food and 30 percent have an income that suffices for food without allowing them to meet other needs, such as hospitalization.