Prime Minister Saad Hariri stressed on Tuesday at the Oil and Gas Forum that the government plans to successfully transform Lebanon’s natural resources wealth into sustained economic growth.

“The oil and gas sector is one of the most important files on Lebanon’s economic agenda. My government gives priority to the good governance and proper management of this sector and we believe it is in such discussions that we move it forward,” said Hariri at the ESA Business School during his patronage of the “Oil and Gas Forum: Roadmap”.

“We want all stakeholders, indeed, all of society to participate and invest in it. The potential discovery of resources in our seas is the reason we are here today,” he added.

“As an oil importing country, we have been dependent on fuel imports to fulfill our domestic consumption. This has rendered our balance of trade highly sensitive to fluctuations in international oil prices and the size of local demand.”

“In the years 2000 to 2002, geophysical service companies performed two-dimensional multi-client surveys within Lebanon’s maritime Exclusive Economic Zone. Following this, a geological and geophysical study was performed in 2004 to determine the hydrocarbon potential in the area. The results revealed high prospects for the presence of hydrocarbon reserves under our seabed.

“In 2010, Lebanon ratified the offshore Petroleum Resource Law. This law sets the foundations for ensuring prudent production of hydrocarbons, while providing long term investment incentives, and a sustainable revenue management mechanism through the establishment of a Sovereign Wealth Fund.

This was followed, in 2012, by the appointment of the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, to act as a regulator for the sector,” stated the PM.

“Since 2012, the work undertaken by the Lebanese Petroleum Administration, including the Strategic Environment Assessment, as well as the extensive work undertaken by the Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Environment, the ministerial committees, and Parliament, prepared the grounds for the Oil & Gas sector to emerge.”

“To signal the importance we give to this sector, our new Council of Ministers passed in its first meeting two pending decrees related to the Tender Protocol, the Model contract and block delineation. I am happy to announce that the Council of Ministers will soon be adopting the draft taxation law for petroleum activities and sending it to Parliament. Following this, the regulatory framework will be complete,” he said.

“In addition, the first offshore licensing round was firmly re-launched in January to attract the best reputable International Oil Companies.

“We are determined on setting a national energy roadmap; one that merges with Lebanon’s economic, social, geopolitical and developmental policies,” added Hariri.

“Today, the Lebanese Government is determined to go through with the first round of oil and gas tenders in a transparent fashion. This has been highlighted by the Cabinet’s decision to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, (E.I.T.I) which is a multi-stakeholder initiative that offers civil society a seat at the table and empowers them to actively contribute to governing their national wealth by having general oversight over the oil and gas sector. We are set on integrating the exploitation of Lebanon’s Oil & Gas wealth in the real economy,” he said.

“Our aim is to increase employment, strengthen our social safety nets and raise living standards. We are hopeful that this will bring about a new economic reality, that will raise demand for employment enough to curb migration of our youth out of the country. Notwithstanding the expected positive effects, we will take appropriate precautions to minimize any negative consequence from the production of oil and gas,” stressed the MP.

“We are well aware of the risks attached to sudden resource discoveries and we fully intend to minimize any potential negative impact. Indeed, we plan to successfully transform our natural resource wealth into sustained economic growth and poverty reduction through the appropriate fiscal and structural policies,” concluded Hariri.