BEIRUT: The failure of the caretaker Cabinet to convene to issue two crucial decrees required for the next round of the oil and gas exploration bidding is likely to increase the already growing disillusionmentamong international oil companies, an industry source told The Daily Star.
“I can’t believe that the Lebanese are missing so many opportunities to exploit the big gas reserves off the Lebanese coast,” an oil industry executive told The Daily Star.
“Some of the oil companies that pledged to invest in these gas blocks have already pulled out and more are expected to do the same if Lebanon fails to endorse the two decrees which will allow companies to explore for gas.”
Lebanon’s caretaker Cabinet was scheduled to convene Monday to discuss the two decrees, but failed to do.
“I can’t believe that the trivial disputes among politicians are standing in the way of oil and gas development in the country,” the executive said. “If there are no bidding rounds then there is no opportunity for oil companies to make any investments in Lebanon. Now the oil companies will take their money and invest it elsewhere.”
Experts have estimated that oil companies would invest more than $2 billion in the initial exploration, and the firms are likely to hire many Lebanese engineers, technicians and legal advisers.
Sources told The Daily Star that caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati refused to hold an extraordinary session to pass the two decrees although some legal experts insisted that a caretaker Cabinet had the authority to hold an exceptional meeting to approve an important item such as the two decrees.
Mikati argues that if he holds a Cabinet meeting to pass the two decrees then he will be compelled to hold additional sessions to address other issues, stressing that a caretaker government was not authorized to make such a decision once it had resigned.
The head of the Free Patriotic Movement MP Michel Aoun blasted politicians for failing to pass the two decrees.
“It seems that some politicians are not too keen to exploit oil and gas in Lebanon. We have oil in the sea and they don’t want us to extract it,” Aoun said at a news conference.
The oil industry executive, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it seemed that some politicians were blocking the two decrees to score political points.
“Oil companies do not want to take sides in the political dispute among politicians. But I really can’t believe that some politicians are willing to miss a great opportunity to extract the gas. Even if a new Cabinet is formed in the near future, most oil companies won’t believe the empty promises of Lebanese officials. This will really look bad for Lebanon.”