Adonis Diaries

Case study: Equitability of electrical power distribution in Lebanon

Posted on: September 24, 2008

A case to study on the equitability of electrical power distribution in Lebanon (September 22, 2008)

Note: I am not a civil servant but I encourage you to contribute your comments and resolutions also to the Lebanese government and the ministry of energy.

I have a question.  Alain Taborian, minister of energy in Lebanon said that the Lebanese government subsidizes electricity at 80% of the cost, that 30% of the citizens consume 70% of the produced electricity then, what should be the mathematical equations to reflect true democracy and equitability in the distribution of this power?  The discussion taking place is that the power minister wants to distribute electricity equitably to all the regions in Lebanon so that they receive the same number of hours per day. 

The government headed by Seniora PM. insists on offering Beirut a special status for many more hours per days of 22 hours instead of barely 12 hours elsewhere on the basis that Beirut is more densier than other cites and the nerve center of the country.  How would you resolve this problem?  

Obviously, since the government is subsidizing heavily then the rich in Beirut are taking most of the subsidies and thus the indebtedness is caused by the rich and they should pay the share of the cost.  The rich should buy electricity at a higher price and the main criterion adopted by the opposition for cost brackets per kilowatt is reflected by the total consumption because rich people use more electrical equipments in larger houses.  This has nothing to do with free consumer market policies because it is the government that is subsidizing and the less fortunate citizens should have privilege over the rich.  

What is an appropriate mathematical formula that reflects democracy and equitability in this case?  I am sure that most people connote mathematical formulas to deterministic solutions but it is not when human and societies are the subject matter; it is a way to forecast the various alternative solutions that depend on political decisions in our case.  A mathematical equation pre-supposes the determination of the main factors, the interactions or relationships among the variables and the appropriate weights to attribute to each variables or factors.  I think that weighting the variable “equality” 50% among all citizens is irrelevant in computation if this legal variable is adopted to represent all the other relevant legal variables, although it might offer a fictitious political undertone:  When we attribute a 50% weight to any variable it is as if this variable is practically a redundant entity and complicates the equation for no benefit.

The same is true for the concept of the moral variable “equitability” among the consumers (which is different from the legal concept of equality in rights and responsibilities). 

We also need to consider the variable “productivity” (because if the various industries are unable to function then the State would have to borrow some more to keep the current high level of subsidy); thus industrial and touristic districts should be weighted higher than non productive ones.  The variables profitability, subsidizing rate, cost, and rate of return are basically very intertwined economically and financially and a few of these variables might turn out to be redundant. The State or government should give serious considerations for the population acceptance of the weights attached to variables.  It is to be noted that distribution of semi-potable water (that needs to be filtered) in Lebanon relies almost completely on electricity for pumping in many regions; thus the districts not relying on gravity for the distribution of water should be weighted higher. 

There is a mathematical field called “operations research” that uses methods of set of equations to resolve practical problems in econometrics, budgeting, distribution, transportation, allocation and so on.  The main equation is called the objective function which is restricted by a set of constraint equations.  The objective function is meant to optimize a criterion, for example minimize cost or maximize profit; the Prime minister of our government would wish to minimize the subsidy rate, the energy minister would like to maximize the electrical hours provided to the rest of Lebanon. In my case, since potable water distribution is intrinsically linked to the availability of electricity then I would like to maximize the hours of water flow to the households. 

The main constraint equations should be related to the wants of districts and region.  Since we cannot mix apples and orangers, in the same tolken the constraint equations should include variables of the same nature such as legal variables in one equation (for example, decentralization policies, municipalities rights..), then moral variables in another, economical variables in the third and so on.  In this case, when more than two legal variables are included in a constraint equation then attaching a 50% weight to a variable acquires meaning.

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September 2008

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