BEIRUT: Telecommunications Minister Nicolas Sehnaoui announced Thursday that the Cabinet had finally agreed to release the $1.2 billion of cash to the municipalities to help them carry out crucial development projects.
Speaking at a news conference in MP Michel Aoun’s residence in Rabyeh, the minister accused the successive governments in Lebanon of withholding these funds from the municipalities and using most of them to settle part of the budget deficit.
The $1.2 billion, which has been sitting in the Central Bank account, was the municipalities’ share of the telecoms revenues.
According to the law, 10 percent of the telecoms revenues should go the municipality and Sehnaoui argues that municipalities only received a small fraction of this money from 2000-10.
“We are going to create a mechanism in collaboration with the Interior and Municipalities Ministry and the Finance Ministry to distribute this money to the municipalities. This will be done very soon,” the minister said.
Sehnaoui and MP Ibrahim Kanaan said the release of these funds was considered a major achievement for the Aoun’s Change and Reform bloc.
He added that distribution of the money to each municipality would be based 80 percent on the basis of registered residents and 20 percent on the basis of the population.
Sehnaoui repeated that many regions in Lebanon and specially the rural areas have suffered gross negligence because the successive governments refrained from sending the money to them.
The minister added that each municipality would also use part of this cash to cope with the fallout from the storm which has battered Lebanon for the past three days.
Former Telecommunications Minister Charbel Nahhas had refused to channel the telecoms revenues to the treasury, claiming that part of these funds belonedg to the municipalities.
The funds will also be used to finance solid-waste treatment, construction of sanitary networks, improving public transportation and other development projects.
The telecoms revenues, including land line and mobile, are estimated at more than $1.2 billion each year.