Re­cy­cling his­tory

Le­banon set to re­peat past mis­takes

Executive Magazine - - Leaders -

We are be­ing gov­erned in­com­pe­tently. 2015 proved that. Not only did the govern­ment’s han­dling of waste man­age­ment al­low one of the coun­try’s worst en­vi­ron­men­tal dis­as­ters to un­fold, but it is repli­cat­ing bad de­ci­sions it made nearly 20 years ago. In 1997, the cab­i­net gave one lo­cal com­pany a mo­nop­oly on most of the na­tion’s waste with­out a com­pet­i­tive ten­der. As 2015 came to a close, the cab­i­net was set to sim­ply split that mo­nop­oly be­tween two in­ter­na­tional firms, again with­out a com­pet­i­tive ten­der. But for dou­ble the price. Worse, the al­leged will to let mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties han­dle their own garbage an­nounced in Septem­ber 2015 has yet to trans­late into ac­tion, mean­ing that if this tem­po­rary so­lu­tion is truly tem­po­rary, rot­ting trash on the streets will be back in fash­ion for sum­mer 2017.

It’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the great “trash cri­sis” of 2015 ac­tu­ally started with a govern­ment de­ci­sion in early 2014 to close the na­tion’s largest san­i­tary land­fill. While there was noth­ing wrong with the de­ci­sion to shut­ter the land­fill, the blun­ders soon be­gan pil­ing up like so many un­col­lected bags of garbage. First and fore­most, a min­is­te­rial com­mit­tee tasked in early 2014 with find­ing a re­place­ment for the Naameh land­fill failed spec­tac­u­larly. The plan this com­mit­tee even­tu­ally set­tled on con­sisted of di­vid­ing the coun­try into six ser­vice zones and ten­der­ing waste man­age­ment in those zones to pri­vate com­pa­nies. Bid­ding did not open un­til late in the first quar­ter of 2015, mean­ing that even if the ten­ders were suc­cess­ful, win­ning com­pa­nies could not have had re­place­ments for Naameh con­structed be­fore the land­fill closed. Fur­ther, the plan once again would have given one con­trac­tor (ad­mit­tedly a con­sor­tia of lo­cal and in­ter­na­tional com­pa­nies) in each zone full con­trol of waste man­age­ment, which is not stan­dard in­ter­na­tional prac­tice and ar­guably the main griev­ance against Averda, par­ent com­pany of waste man­agers Suk­leen and Sukomi.

On top of that, the ten­der con­di­tions were out­ra­geous. The con­tracts were slated to last seven years, yet win­ners were ex­pected to: 1) se­cure land on which to build waste man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties; 2) build and op­er­ate those fa­cil­i­ties; and 3) de­crease land­fill­ing from around 80 per­cent of the to­tal waste stream to 40 per­cent in the first three years and to 25 per­cent there­after. Land in Le­banon is ex­pen­sive. Cap­i­tal ex­pen­di­ture on tech­nolo­gies needed to de­crease land­fill­ing can cost mil­lions, and res­i­dent op­po­si­tion to waste man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties “in my back­yard” is high. Ev­ery pri­vate sec­tor player Ex­ec­u­tive spoke to about the ten­ders — in­clud­ing those who ul­ti­mately sub­mit­ted of­fers — said the ten­ders seemed de­signed to fail. Ex­ec­u­tive has not been able to dis­cern ex­actly how the ten­der con­di­tions were for­mu­lated, but Par­lia­ment should do its job and ques­tion all in­volved in an open, tele­vised ses­sion. The leg­is­la­ture has this au­thor­ity, as

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