On Jan. 4, Lebanon's new government passed two decrees concerning oil and gas exploration blocks, meaning a tender process for offshore reserves, stalled since 2013, can begin.
Lebanon estimates it has about 96 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas reserves and 865 million barrels of oil offshore, but squabbling between parties has prevented it from kick-starting exploration and development of the sector.
"The two oil decrees have been decided in the first achievement for the government," Foreign Minister Gibran Bassil wrote on Twitter during the first meeting of the new cabinet under Prime Minister Saad Hariri.
Beirut hopes exploiting the hydrocarbon reserves will help tackle its large debt and chronic power shortages, which see most houses go without power or rely on expensive generators for many hours a day.
Exacerbated by regional tensions and the war in Syria, political paralysis left Lebanon without a president for more than two years. The government was unable to tackle long-pending economic and development issues such as garbage disposal, electricity, water, Internet and stock market privatization.
The country is also bearing the costs of hosting more than 1 million refugees from neighboring Syria's civil war.
Finally, in October 2016, Michel Aoun was elected president in a deal which saw Hariri became prime minister. In mid-December Hariri formed a cabinet of 30 ministers drawn from most sides of the country's political spectrum and all of its religious sects.
Jan. 4 was the first meeting of this new cabinet, which had in front of it a long list of overdue items, top of which were the oil decrees.
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