Politicians have been unable to solve the seven-month-long garbage crisis.
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The Finance Ministry is withholding millions of dollars from municipalities, The Daily Star learned Sunday, breaking a government promise to distribute the funds without any deductions. The ministry is deducting between 10 and 30 percent of what it owes to Beirut and the larger Mount Lebanon municipalities, according to Education Minister Elias Bou Saab, who has pressed the issue in Cabinet meetings. Hazmieh Mayor Jean Asmar told The Daily Star his municipality only received 80 percent of what it was owed.The matter took on renewed urgency last summer after the Environment Ministry closed the Naameh landfill in July and abruptly ordered cash-strapped Mount Lebanon municipalities to manage their own waste.In September, the Cabinet approved a decree to decentralize the waste sector over 18 months, conditioned on the understanding that municipalities would receive their back pay. Social Affairs Minister Rashid Derbas said Sunday that the trash crisis has become "sectarian," echoing Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb who last year accused political and sectarian posturing for blocking an earlier plan to establish sanitary landfills.The Greater Beirut area produces over 3,000 tons of waste daily, and more than half of that is organic.
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