The Cabinet issued three long-awaited decrees Monday, releasing LL1.2 trillion ($795 million) to municipalities from telecommunications revenues and the Independent Municipalities Fund to help them control the garbage crisis. The move is in line with proposals made by the interior and finance ministers, Nouhad Machnouk and Ali Hasan Khalil respectively. Machnouk has given instructions for the direct implementation of the decrees.
The first decree, number 2338, is related to the distribution of funds allocated for lighting, maintenance and waste management to villages without municipalities. The funding, sourced from municipalities’ portion of cellular phone tariffs collected by the Telecommunications Ministry from Jan. 1, 2010 to May. 31, 2014, will total LL6 billion. A second decree, number 2339, will distribute LL667 billion of this revenue to municipalities and municipality unions.
A further LL527 billion will be taken from the Independent Municipalities Fund, the state’s pot of money for local governments, financed by telecoms revenues, as dictated by a third decree, number 2341.
Municipalities need the money to manage their waste after trash collection services collapsed over the summer. The Environment Ministry closed the Naameh landfill – the country’s largest – on July. 17, without securing a replacement site.
For 17 years, the central government has retained the services of Sukleen, through an opaque contract, to handle trash collection for Beirut and Mount Lebanon.
Lebanon’s municipalities are partly funded by telecoms revenues, which generate about LL3 trillion annually, but the government had not paid them their share of the revenue collected during the period covered by the decrees.
The decision to sign the decrees was significantly delayed by political bickering in the Cabinet, which has operated in a state of near paralysis.
Five Cabinet ministers from Hezbollah and the Free Patriotic Movement withheld their signatures from the decrees. A Cabinet plan to establish sanitary landfills across the country has hit a dead end, and officials are now discussing means to export the garbage outside Lebanon.