Lebanon's plan to tap into the oil and gas sector has grabbed media attention in recent months, but it hasn't all been positive news. 

Lebanese decision makers have been criticized for drafting and passing laws governing the sector before a national strategy clarifying the country's plans to optimize the exploration of a new industry was even shared with the public. 

In response to this, Lebanese NGO, LOGI (Lebanese Oil and Gas Initiative), released a video campaign urging decision-makers to stop passing laws, just for the sake of passing laws. 

"The oil and gas sector is the only sector we [Lebanese decision makers] haven't ruined because we have not yet managed to f**k it up," the woman says at the start of the video.

The video goes on to mock the decision makers' ability to brush aside current crises taking a toll on Lebanese nationals, including the ongoing garbage crisis, daily power outages, and routine water shortages, to name a few.

LOGI's mission is to help "Lebanon maximize the economic and social benefits of its oil and gas wealth – and avoid the resource curse."

The video focuses on four draft laws that are currently awaiting approval, including: 

  • The draft law for establishing the National Oil Company
  • The draft law for establishing the Sovereign Wealth Fund
  • The draft law for establishing the Directorate for Petroleum Assets
  • The draft law for Onshore oil and gas exploration

The video comes a month after the Council of Ministers approved licenses for three international companies to carry out exploratory drilling off the Lebanese coast, following a three-year delay due to "political paralysis".

Still, lack of transparency remains one of the main concerns of the public. 

"We need anti-corruption laws for Lebanon’s Oil & Gas and some serious actions need to be undertaken by the ruling bodies to show good faith and regain people’s trust. We can always hope that they are working for our benefit, but we need re-assurances and actions, not just talks," writes Lebanese blogger Najib Mitri.

In September, LOGI hired international and local law firms specialized in petroleum law to review Lebanon’s petroleum legislation. 

"The identified potential red flags, risks of corruption, and lack of transparency" were detailed in an 84-page report.

In September, Lebanon's parliament approved a law to "tax revenues from oil and gas operations", which was described as a pathway to the country's first licensing round for offshore oil and gas exploration.

"Unfortunately, most taxpayers feel it’s just another black hole of corruption in the making, and doubt that the benefits (if any) of this sector, will end up helping the country’s economy, but just lining the pockets of Lebanon’s politicians like most other corruption-infested sectors in Lebanon," writes Lebanese blogger Gino Raidy.

In December, Cesar Abi Khalil, Lebanon's Energy and Water Minister, said the exploratory drilling for offshore oil and gas is expected to begin in 2019, according to Reuters.

The video is making the rounds online

Oil & Gas > Garbage Crisis?

One of the main concerns of the public is the Lebanese government's lack of transparency, which has proven evident in the "waste management" sector, or lack thereof. 

Lebanon does not have a solid waste management law or strategy for the entire country. 

In the 1990s, the central government arranged for waste collection and disposal in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, but left other municipalities to fend for themselves without adequate oversight, financial support, or technical expertise. 

As a result, dumping flourished across the country, with open burning of waste taking place at 150 dumps every week according to the Environment Ministry. 

According to researchers at the American University of Beirut, 77 percent of Lebanon’s waste is either openly dumped or sent to landfills even though they estimate that more than 80 percent could be composted or recycled.

Lebanon’s cabinet approved a draft law in 2012 that would create a single Solid Waste Management Board, headed by the Environment Ministry, responsible for national-level decision-making and waste treatment, while leaving waste collection to local authorities. 

However, parliament has not passed the bill yet. The joint committees of parliament considered an amended draft of that law on January 9, and returned it to the environment committee for further amendments. 

The Environment Ministry says that open burning violates Lebanon’s own environmental protection laws. 

How the government deals with the crisis remains to be seen. 

Will the Oil & Gas sector be faced with the same fate?