Lebanon faces the imminent collapse of its telecoms sector as a result of ongoing fuel shortages, according to the country’s parliamentary Media and Communications Committee.
The stark warning was reported by Arab News, with a Committee statement reading: “The quantity of diesel at Lebanon’s state-owned Touch and Alfa mobile companies and the state-run telecommunications company Ogero, which operates fixed lines and fixed internet, is enough to run for only a few days, [following which] telecom services will crumble.”
Lebanon has experienced outages of voice and data services for several months as a result of its ongoing financial crisis, reports TeleGeography. Major shortages of diesel have made it impossible to power generators that ordinarily would provide a failsafe for electricity supplies, leading to power outages. This has had a knock-on effect on healthcare, education and communications.
The Committee’s head Hussein Hajj Hassan outlined the issues: “The dilemma is not limited to the inability to secure diesel, but also the inability to purchase spare parts, whose prices have become exorbitant. In addition, we have thefts targeting telecom networks in Lebanon, some stolen pieces of spare parts and transmission poles are being sold online.”
“It turned out that Touch and Alfa, which get diesel from oil facilities, now have to pay for it in dollars, so now government institutions are required to pay in dollars. This is complicated because companies do not have the right to buy with dollars from the market, and this increases the cost, and this foreign currency is not available.”
Committee member Rola Al-Tabash added: “We would slide into a new crisis that paralyses everything in Lebanon and isolates it from the world if diesel for the telecom network’s generators is not provided. The Ministry of Energy’s policy over the years has led to this inability to secure power. The General Directorate of Oil, which considers itself an independent administration, has set its prices in dollars, and the state cannot buy with dollars.”
According to Arab News, the Committee has cleared “an additional credit for Ogero to meet its needs for fuel and spare parts, at a value of LBP350 billion [USD232 million] in the 2021 budget.”