BEIRUT: Prime Minister Najib Mikati voiced optimism that a conclusion to the controversy over the electricity bill that is threatening to split the Cabinet is close, reported As-Safir newspaper Tuesday.
“I can say that we have reached a sort of solution and God willing we will be able to reach a positive conclusion soon,” Mikati told the local newspaper in an interview published Tuesday, without giving details over what such a solution might entail.
Ministers have been unable to reach a compromise over an electricity bill drafted by Energy Minister Jibran Bassil which would allocate $1.2 billion to the Energy Ministry to produce 700 additional megawatts of electricity.
The dispute is over Bassil’s refusal to establish a regulatory authority to supervise either the sector or the implementation of the plan.
State Minister Salim Karam said Tuesday that there were positive signs the dispute would be over prior to the Cabinet meeting Wednesday.
"I expect a resolution to be reached today or tomorrow, meaning before the Cabinet meeting," Karam told Voice of Lebanon radio station. "The aim is to find a solution and there are positive signs."
Meanwhile, Economy Minister Nicolas Nahhas criticized Bassil’s televised press conference Monday which was aired at the same time as a Cabinet meeting was taking place to discuss the electricity bill.
“The dispute over the electricity plan should not be [conducted] in the media because we are in one government and we are one team,” Nahhas told the alternate, Kataeb-run, Voice of Lebanon radio station Tuesday.
In his news conference, Bassil, a Free Patriotic Movement minister, warned of the potential for government paralysis if amendments are made to his plan before it is approved, ruling out the possibility of any compromise.
FPM leader Michel Aoun, who originally proposed the bill in Parliament, has repeatedly threatened to boycott Cabinet meetings unless the proposal is endorsed by the government. He has also threatened to call on his ministers to resign from the Cabinet.