BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Cabinet discussed solid waste treatment for five straight hours Thursday before kicking it down the road once more, announcing the formation of a committee to oversee the implementation of a comprehensive plan that has been collecting dust for several years already.
The Cabinet said the new ministerial committee would be responsible for negotiating new contracts with the three companies that manage Lebanon’s solid waste disposal. It will be headed by Deputy Prime Minister Samir Moqbel and include the finance, agriculture, interior affairs, environment and education ministers, as well as the head of the Council for Development and Reconstruction, according to a statement read after the session by Information Minister Ramzi Joreige.
Averda group, the mother company of Sukleen and Sukomi, as well as Lafayette and Batco, which currently manage Lebanon’s waste, will be expected to bid “to be in charge of implementing Lebanon’s new, comprehensive waste management plan,” the Cabinet’s statement said.
Culture Minister Raymond Areiji, who left the meeting before it ended, said Sukleen’s contract would be temporarily extended until new tenders are submitted.
The Cabinet also decided to give financial incentives to villages that agree to set up their own garbage dumps. The interior and finance ministers were tasked with expediting payments to the municipalities of those villages, especially the ones surrounding the garbage dump of Obeih and Ain Drafil.
After five hours of discussion, the ministers spent the final two hours of the session discussing other issues of lesser priority.
Foreign Affairs Minister Gebran Bassil reportedly emphasized the necessity of freeing the security forces abducted by militants in Arsal.
Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk had said before the session that the government was handling the situation with “utmost secrecy,” while Health Minister Wael Abu Faour praised Prime Minister Tammam Salam’s role in the hostage crisis.
“The prime minister is earnestly following up on the issue,” Abu Faour told reporters ahead of the Cabinet meeting at the Grand Serail.
The Cabinet’s statement also said Bassil “mentioned the necessity of resolving the Syrian refugee crisis.”
In this vein, the Cabinet agreed that Syrians wishing to return home for good should be exempt from any residency-related fees or fines at the border. This decision, which will go into effect in the next three months, is intended to “encourage [them] to leave Lebanon in a legal manner.”
During the marathon session, the Cabinet approved requests by international organizations to establish branches in Lebanon, and approved draft decrees to transfer credits from the public budget’s reserve to the 2014 budgets of the prime minister’s office and several ministries, committing to the model of the last approved budget in 2005.
The ministers also agreed to appoint Judge Samar Sawwah and Judge Hussein Shahine as general inspectors on the Judicial Inspection Committee.
Finally, the ministers agreed to reactivate the committee responsible for high-voltage electricity lines, tasking it with offering to buy the home of any resident who believes the lines are affecting his health.
Before the session, many ministers had stressed the importance of tackling matters that affect the people of Lebanon.
“It is an important session because it will address the citizen’s day-to-day issues,” Minister of State Mohammad Fneish, from Hezbollah’s bloc, told The Daily Star.