Seismic surveys in 2013 estimated Lebanon's offshore fields to hold 96 trillion cubic feet of gas and 850 million barrels of oil. On January 27th, the government finally opened the bidding for five offshore blocks in a first licensing round, after a three-year delay brought upon by political instability.
The fractious Lebanese government hopes that these energy reserves and the wealth that should come with them will alleviate the country's notorious power shortages and budget deficits. But, history is littered with examples of fragile countries going completely off the rails because of the warping effects oil has on their economies – will Lebanon follow suit or can Beirut dodge the resource curse?
Michel Aoun, who was elected President at the end of October, after a grueling 29-month standoff, vowed to use the fund for the good of the Lebanese people, financing development projects and revamping ailing infrastructure. In this, his government wants to follow the example of developed economies that have the advantage of better governance and economic planning, greater regional security, and long-established transparency practices. However, even if Lebanon's estimated reserves turn out to be as substantial and as profitable as its leaders predict, replicating that success won't be an easy feat.