Lebanon's Cabinet rejected the winning bidders announced Monday to manage Lebanon's waste over their high costs in an emergency session Tuesday, but approved $100 million of investments in Akkar as an incentive to create a large garbage dump in the area.
The decision to reject the tenders was made after ministers affiliated with Hezbollah, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Tashnag party stormed out of the session over political disputes.
But ministers affiliated with the three parties' major ally, the Amal Movement, decided to stay in the session, thus achieving quorum.
Information Minister Ramzi Joreige, who read out the Cabinet's official statement after the session, said the decision to reject the bids was based on the recommendation of Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk. The ministerial committee responsible for handling the crisis was tasked with restarting the process with a new bid document and call for tenders.
As for the Akkar projects, Joreige said the $100 million amount would be invested in infrastructure, education and social services over the next three years.
The minister did not explicitly say that Akkar would allow the opening of a waste dump, but an official statement released by Prime Minister Tammam Salam's office quoted the premier as telling other ministers that there would be communication on the topic.
"If we approve the decision to provide this highly needed assistance and we begin immediately to carry out the development projects that would improve the living conditions of our people in Akkar, we will be able, in light of that, to communicate with them so they can help us find quick solutions to the garbage issue," Salam said.
Industry Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan said as he walked out of the meeting that the decision to leave was made because political rivals would not "listen to calls for true partnership," noting that the Cabinet recently passed 70 decrees without unanimous approval.
The Cabinet has been in deadlock since FPM ministers, backed by Hezbollah, announced that they would not allow any decision to pass before discussing successors to retiring security chiefs.
Tuesday's extraordinary session was called for by Prime Minister Tammam Salam to look into the "disasterous waste situation” as stated in the text of the invitation, and to take the appropriate decisions on the winning bids in the tenders for managing Lebanon's waste.
Ministers had warned before the meeting that they would vote against the approval of the trash bid tenders.
Justice Minister Ashraf Rifi told reporters before joining the session that he will not approve the bids.
“I won’t sign any waste tender because I don’t want to be a partner in the profit-sharing agreement,” he said.
Finance Minister Ali Hasan Khalil said the tenders “need to be reviewed because the prices are higher than expected."
Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, an FPM member, dubbed the tenders “a waste scandal.”
Only State Minister for Administration Development Nabil De Freij described the bids as “excellent.”
Encouraged by the announcement made by Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk, Salam called for an extraordinary Cabinet session Tuesday to approve the results of the winning companies that won the tenders to manage waste across Lebanon.
The call for an urgent meeting also aimed to contain the reverberations of the weekend clashes between police and anti-government protesters, sparked by the protracted trash crisis.
In remarks published by local newspaper Al-Akhbar Tuesday, Salam said he will issue decrees during Cabinet's ordinary session Thursday.
“I will sign [the tenders]," Salam said in remarks published Tuesday by local newspaper Al-Akhbar. “Those who want to object or make reservations or hinder will bear the responsibility.”
“I am the head of the executive power and I will exercise all the responsibilities and powers entrusted to me.”
“This time I will not give a chance for consensus,” Salam vowed, adding that his decision would be based on the ministers’ approach to the trash issue.
Salam also stressed that decisions made by the Cabinet will be implemented, in a clear response to FPM leader Michel Aoun.
Aoun’s ministers have warned they will not allow any Cabinet decision before their demands are met.
“Nobody shall accuse us of disruption. We are disrupting the disruption, and we will not allow any decision to pass before a real partnership mechanism is established,” a bloc statement said after last week’s weekly meeting at Aoun’s residence.
Copyright © 2021, The Daily Star. All rights reserved.