KUWAIT: The Cabinet cancelled plans to construct the Al-Dabdaba solar plant, which would have provided 15 percent of the oil sector’s needs of electrical energy, due to the coronavirus pandemic. “The Cabinet decided to cancel the decisions on the project due to the spread of coronavirus and its impacts on the global oil and financial markets,” it said after meeting on Monday.

The project, which was to be carried out by Kuwait National Petroleum Company (KNPC), was supposed to start operating in Feb 2021. But the proposal was extremely delayed due to bureaucratic procedures. The lowest bid for the project was KD 439 million ($1.4 billion), Al-Rai newspaper said on July 5. Kuwait has plans to generate 15 percent of its energy via renewable sources by 2030.

The decision would contribute to the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation (KPC) “focusing on its priorities for the coming stage and maintaining its position in the global oil markets”, the Cabinet statement said. The project was aimed at establishing a solar power plant within the Al-Shagaya Complex for Renewable Energy, which is located 100 km west of Kuwait City, on about 32 sq km.

Meanwhile, Lebanon wants to negotiate fuel imports with Kuwait to help Beirut cope with an economic and financial crisis, Lebanon’s internal security chief said in remarks published yesterday. Abbas Ibrahim told Al-Rai he had discussed the matter with Kuwaiti officials during a visit to state this week along with other “shared ideas” that could help alleviate Lebanon’s crisis.

“We want to purchase 100 percent of our requirements from Kuwait without going through agents or companies looking to make a profit … this is a purely commercial matter and I hope there will be no obstacles to it,” Al-Rai quoted Ibrahim as saying.

Lebanon is suffering a dire financial crisis and hard currency liquidity crunch. The Lebanese pound has lost some 80 percent of its value since October. There was no immediate comment from Kuwaiti officials on the request. Abbas, in the newspaper interview, declined to elaborate on what other assistance Lebanon may have sought.

Gulf states have long channeled funds into Lebanon’s fragile economy but are alarmed by the rising influence of Hezbollah, a powerful group backed by their archrival Iran. They appear loath now to help ease Beirut’s worst financial crisis in decades, with a senior official in the United Arab Emirates last month saying Lebanon was paying the price of deteriorating ties with wealthy Gulf Arab neighbors.

Kuwait is seeking to bolster its own finances amid low oil prices and the coronavirus pandemic, and has been rapidly depleting its General Reserves Fund to plug a budget deficit. Another newspaper, Al-Qabas, quoted sources as saying it would be difficult for Kuwait at this time to consider supporting Lebanon through a central bank deposit. – Agencies