‘High probability’ of finding oil and gas reserves in Lebanon, 6-7 years to see results: Former PM

DUBAI, Although there is no confirmation about oil and gas reserves in Lebanon, it is a “high probability” to be confirmed by early 2020, Fouad Siniora, Lebanon’s former Prime Minister said.

“First of all nobody knows whether we have proven reserves. What we have is high probability. So, once they [exploration companies] start digging in January, I hope they will extract something,” Siniora told the Emirates News Agency, WAM, in an exclusive interview in Dubai.

In February 2018, Lebanon signed its first offshore oil and gas exploration, and production contracts, for two energy blocks with a consortium of France’s Total, Italy’s Eni and Russia’s Novatek.

The natural resources of Lebanon are limited and include limestone, iron ore, and salt.

Protests have been taking place since 17th October against the ruling class, corruption and standard of living. The public debt of the Middle Eastern country is an estimated US$86 billion.

Siniora said the exploration companies had conducted seismic surveys, studies and analysis before taking a decision to invest money in explorations in Lebanon.

“Had it not been positive, they would not have invested their money,” Lebanon’s Prime Minister from 2005 to 2009 said.

Media reports quoting the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, said an LPA document revealed the potential for several gas-prone and oil-prone source rocks in the Levant basin and noted that these rocks have reached maturity.

Asked how a positive result of oil and gas exploration would impact the economic crisis in Lebanon, Siniora said it would take six to seven years to see results.

“What is important is managing these things properly,” he pointed out quoting an old saying, “an intelligent person learns from his mistakes, a wise person learns from others’ mistakes and you can guess who is the third one!”

“We should not mismanage the economy and we have to manage the hydrocarbon resources very well,” he added.

“That is the right thing to do. We need to learn from the past mistakes,” said the veteran politician who had worked as a long-term adviser for former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri.

Siniora had also served as a Minister of Finance under Hariri. He said the position always attracted unpopularity. “Was there any finance minister in the world who was liked by people?” he asked.

To support this argument, he recalled an experience in 1995 when a Lebanese delegation, including 29 ministers, led by the-then president Elias Hrawi, visited Syria on the invitation of Syrian President Hafez Al Assad for signing some agreements between both nations.

In a casual conversation, he heard Hrawi telling Al Assad that cabinet colleagues did not like his minister of finance.

“I heard President Al Assad telling my president: ‘If my minister of finance gets friendly with his colleagues, I’d fire him!’,” Seniora recalled.

Asked about international donors’ conditions to release $US11 billion they pledged in a conference in Paris in 2018, he said, “The conditions are basically economic reforms, which Lebanon need anyway.”

All global financial institutions put forward similar conditions to extend aid, he pointed out.

Source: Emirates News Agency