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Lebanon News

Jumblatt warns against corruption in gas and oil sector

File - Walid Jumblatt attends a ceremony in Beirut, Tuesday, March 4, 2014. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has questioned the management of Lebanon’s potential gas and oil reserves, warning against subjecting Lebanon’s national resources to political dueling.

“I questioned the withdrawal of some of the major oil companies from bidding in the Lebanese oil market,” he said in his weekly column in the PSP’s newspaper, warning that “local mismanagement of the oil industry treated Lebanese oil not as a national treasure but as a competition between the heads.”

Jumblatt also called for heading off any corruption in the sector.

Political hurdles have slowed progress on the exploration for potential oil and gas off Lebanon’s coast, where seismic surveys have suggested that the country could have sizeable reserves.

The Cabinet has failed to pass two decrees needed to proceed with a licensing round for offshore drilling.

The Chouf MP also called for a large development program for the town of Arsal and urged the construction of refugee camps for displaced Syrians.

Jumblatt spoke of the importance of “implementing development plans to achieve a qualitative rather than superficial change, to lift injustice from people who are not only facing harsh living conditions, but also care for 100,000 displaced Syrians.”

The party head said that current conditions necessitated the formation of refugee camps for displaced Syrians and suggested appointing of one of the country’s security forces to monitor refugees. Jumblatt said security forces must distinguish between the majority of refugees who were innocent and a minority that aimed to carry out terrorist acts.

“After the experience of Arsal, we should seriously reconsider the formation of refugee camps, due to the positive security outcome it would have and not just because it contributes to organizing Syrian aid.”

Jumblatt warned of an impending economic crisis, saying the national debt had increased as a result of the political and security climate in the region. He also raised questions about funding the 10,000 new Army recruits.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 12, 2014, on page 3.

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