Counting the Cost

Will Lebanon tap its oil and gas wealth?

We examine Beirut’s ambitions to tap into its energy sector and the challenges ahead.

Years of war and political instability have disrupted Lebanon’s ambitions to tap into its energy sector.

Bidding for the right to develop oil and gas fields buried offshore is due to start later this year amid hopes the discoveries will help transform the country’s economy. 

Lebanon, which has the highest debt as a share of annual economic output among Arab states, regularly suffers from power outages. 

Oil companies will have to invest millions of dollars in exploration and drilling, but transporting the gas to consumers could prove tricky due to maritime border disputes and political uncertainty in the region.

Neighbouring countries, including Egypt, Israel and Cyprus, have already started production and some fear Lebanon may never catch up.

Imtiaz Tyab reports from Tripoli, in northern Lebanon, about the challenges ahead.

“Once we start drilling, we’ll know how much reserves we have, but we should be very prudent and not talk about numbers and figures,” said Laury Haytayan, senior MENA officer with the London-based Natural Resource Governance Institute.

“If we want to export, we need to find the right buyers – gas needs buyers before we even starting production. This will be the greatest challenge,” Haytayan added.

“The safest and wisest option for Lebanon is to use the gas to meet its domestic needs.”

Also on this episode of Counting the Cost:

Nigerian skies: Nigeria‘s Abuja airport is shut for the next six weeks because of giant holes in the runway.
But international carriers are also flying into trouble with the backup plan to reroute flights to Kaduna – 170km to the north – because the terminal at Kaduna isn’t finished either, as Ama Boateng reports.
Peter Morris, chief economist at flight Ascend Consultancy, offers his take.

Argentina’s challenge: What happens when you crack open an economy after a decade of protectionism?
Mario Macri’s economic policies have resulted in a decline in inflation and a slow recession, but transition is proving painful for some, as Teresa Bo reports from Buenos Aires. Edward Glossop, a Latin America economist from Capital Economics gives us his view.

Bolivia coca: In Bolivia, a controversial new law has been enacted to boost the production of coca, the plant used to make cocaine. President Evo Morales says more coca is needed for traditional use. And the new law empowers Bolivians to clamp down on the plant’s illicit use. Mereana Hond reports.

Scotland bagpipes: Scottish bagpipes are one of the loudest unamplified instruments on Earth. But restrictions on the import of African blackwood, the wood used to make the pipes, could turn down the volume on sales. For more than 100 years, the trees have been used to make the instrument. Neave Barker reports from Glasgow.