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Can Lebanon make progress on oil, gas exploration efforts?

A litany of more pressing crises has led to a delay in efforts to advance work on Lebanon's nascent oil and gas sector.
Workers conduct an onshore gas and oil inspection in Batroun, northern Lebanon, October 2, 2013. Lebanon launched an onshore oil and gas survey on Wednesday, hoping that promising results from surveys of its Mediterranean waters can be matched by similar prospects onland.          To match LEBANON-ENERGY/           REUTERS/Mohammed Azakir (LEBANON - Tags: ENERGY BUSINESS ENVIRONMENT POLITICS) - RTR3FIVP

Wissam Zahabi is exhausted. It’s 5 p.m. He arrived in Beirut an hour after sunrise from a fact-finding mission in Uganda and went straight to work. In the evening, he has a conference to attend. It’s a busy day for a man who described himself and his colleagues as “idle.”

His quote, however, needs to be understood in context. Zahabi is currently the president of Lebanon’s Petroleum Administration, a government body established in 2012 to regulate the country’s oil and gas sector. Back then, the pace of activity to create the sector was akin to lightning by Lebanese standards. A law passed in 2010 called for creating the LPA and naming its six board members. Two years later, the six were appointed. (By comparison, it took five years to appoint a board for the telecoms regulator and an electricity regulator called for in a 2002 law still exists only on paper.) The board should be busy watching over oil and gas companies searching for hydrocarbons in Lebanon’s slice of the natural gas-rich eastern Mediterranean. It’s not.

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