Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Siniora defends state's handling of postwar reconstruction

Siniora defends state's handling of postwar reconstruction
'Any delay, if it had occurred, was unintentional'
By Lysandra Ohrstrom
Daily Star staff


BEIRUT: Prime Minister Fouad Siniora defended his administration's handling of postwar reconstruction on Monday, following a blistering attack from Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah a day earlier accusing the government of failing to provide financial assistance to all the Lebanese people. Siniora said the government has spent a total of $318 million on reconstruction since the 2006 war, and received $707 million of the $1.3 billion of pledged assistance, most of which has come from Arab donors so far. "The government is working in the service of all of its citizens and is not asking for anything but cooperation," he told reporters and members of his Cabinet at the Grand Serail. "Any delay, if it had occurred, was unintentional and due to the enormity of the disaster. The steps that we've taken are undoubtedly ... very, very big although they remain less than what we aim for." The Higher Relief Commission (HRC) has distributed $172 million of initial indemnity payments - via the Amal-led Council of the South - to residents of 272 villages and municipalities in South Lebanon, he said, according to a survey of 69,745 housing units damaged during the 34-day war. A further $108 million of compensation will be distributed to 60,000 additional homes that were assessed, he added. Siniora admitted that some villages have yet to be surveyed, and consequently "a number" of households have not received payments. He said the HRC has begun processing indemnities for 1,064 of the 25,000 destroyed or damaged housing units in the four municipalities of the Dahiyeh, Beirut's southern suburbs. Engineers from Khatib and Alami - the firm contracted by the government immediately after the war without an open tendering process to serve as what officials have alternately referred to as either a consultant or independent auditor - have conducted damage assessments on 10,149 apartments, and approved future indemnity payments for 6,924 units. Khatib and Alami also identified 4,952 housing units in need of $108 million worth of rehabilitation, but Siniora did not offer an estimate for the cost of reconstructing the 230 completely destroyed buildings in Dahiyeh.

In an interview televised Sunday on Al-Aalam, Nasrallah accused the government of "politicizing" the reconstruction by delaying the rebuilding in Dahiyeh. Hizbullah's construction wing, Jihad al-Binaa, formed a separate unit to rebuild the southern suburbs following the resignation of the opposition Cabinet ministers in November. An undisclosed number of residents have since signed power of attorney over to the Waad (Promise) project to lead the rebuilding process, but a Waad project manager told The Daily Star that the government is not recognizing their authority. "I cannot comment on partially destroyed houses since the Waad project is not concerned with those, but very little compensation has been paid for destroyed buildings, less than LL1 million, I think," the Waad official told The Daily Star shortly after the news conference on condition of anonymity. The government agreed to pay an average indemnity of $55,000 for each destroyed home last year. The Waad official said "$100 million from Saudi Arabia was supposed to be used to rebuild Dahiyeh, but the government is holding on to it to exert pressure on the Lebanese people. "Siniora said people must collect indemnities in person which is illegal because the government is supposed to recognize power of attorney," he added.

The premier said the progress the government has made in the nine months since the August 14 cease-fire is evident. "The blood that was spilled last summer cannot be replaced with indemnities, but compared to the amount of damage caused, we worked efficiently," Siniora said in response to whether the government has prioritized the reconstruction. "One experienced international expert said during his visit after the war that 'despite hindrances, the Lebanese government has accomplished more than any other country that has faced disasters of this magnitude,'" Siniora said. Thanks to generous donations from Arab and Muslim countries - including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Iraq, Qatar, Egypt, Jordan and Indonesia, though Siniora declined to specify the amount of Iran's donation or whether the government would accept it - $54 million has been spent repairing damaged roads, bridges, power and water networks, and around $42 million on assisting civilians displaced by the conflict. A total of 791 of the 862 damaged and destroyed schools have been rehabilitated. The HRC also "has concluded [$4 million of] renovations and maintenance work in the 353 schools that welcomed the displaced during the war." "We are working on performing renovation and maintenance work for an additional 29 schools based on requests filed by the Education Ministry," Siniora said.

The fate of Dahiyeh, however, is yet to be determined. Nasrallah said Sunday that the Waad project was nearly done with an urban planning scheme for the Dahiyeh, and was in the process of tender agreements to begin construction on May 25.Nasrallah would not say how much the rebuilding in Dahiyeh would cost or where the funds would come from, but he promised that Hizbullah would pay for it.

2 comments:

Sami LIPKIN said...

The real estate registrat is automated in mount lebanon . If he wants Seniora can gets all destroyed houses and buildings in one report in 1 hour
But he does not want -
The procedure is as follows:
1 - Get list of destroyed land numbers inside excel ( only fully destroyed buildings)
2- make a query in registrat for the owner and shares and identities of these numbers
3 - he will get a list
4 - he can publish their names to come get their checks

If some had houses iwht no registrat - it is a minor problem since he will sovle problems of 90 %
If some were dead - any hire of this dead can get a paper from personnel affair court profing the hiring party of the death nad anyway get the check of the dead person

Sami LIPKIN said...

Also it was a priority for him to spend on school of beirut that recieved displaced than to build houses for individuals.
I m sure this poor seniora does no sleep cause he feels bad for those who still did not return to their houses.

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