1997 / 1998 / 1999 / 2000
1st of January, 1999:
Although hardly anyone would doubt that seeing through a return of the civil
war displaced to their homes is a humanitarian issue and a national priority of
the utmost importance, in the end, the return boils down to two
factors-politics and money.
The political tone of the issue was set by the
headlines of 1998, which were dominated by the on-again, off-again relationship
between former Prime Minister Hariri and the then-minister for the Displaced,
2 January 1999:
Participants in the process of overseeing the return identify the two
politicians' intermittent feuding as a major obstacle to seeing some 450.000
war-displaced individuals return to their homes, after a law passed by
Parliament in 1994 authorized $450 million for the return.
The Central Fund
for the Displaced (CFD), which is attached to premier's office, has the
authority to allocate the money, which comes from the 1994 law, and whatever
additional funds are made available from the regular government budget.
When the two politicians were in harmony, the money flowed toward what the
ministry prepared in the way of applications. When the two were at the odds,
the money stopped, or was spent the way the CFD saw fit.
The figures on in
1998, which have yet to be officially released, show a partial rise in
expenditures. Ironically, a factor behind the rise was the Beiteddine
conference. The two politicians drew even this year in their attacks on each
other's squandering of public funds.
3 January 1999:
money, the CFD indicated that spending was also focused this year on the core
displaced, and not their children or other dependent family members.
However, out of LL100 billion spent this year, almost LL40 billion went to
contractors as payments for infrastructure works, and not to individuals for
families. This was because contractors had begun work several years earlier,
and had been waiting in line for money owed to them, which crowded out the
But the financial component is
In the Beirut Central District (BCD), "Solidere" spent
LL318 billion of its own funds on evicting squatters in the past few years,
while other local and foreign sources have contributed amounts for projects
designed to aid the return process. The CFD, meanwhile, has responsibility for
areas outside the BCD and the south, which is under jurisdiction of the Council
of the South.
CFD spending through 1998 means that only LL284 billion
remains of the LL814,5 billion allocated by Parliament five years ago.
Austerity policies will likely make little funding available from the 1999
budget, "New sources of money are needed; they could come from a gasoline tax,
for example," Mr. Andraos.
In 1998, a number of proposals to find more
money, such as a tax on seafront properties, private bank contributions, and
other ideas failed to take off. The ministry says a further LL1.7 billion is
needed. Informed sources say Mr. Khalil is beginning his tenure preparing a
time-table that will attempt to dispel worries about further funds slipping
7 January 1999:
Construction work on the Beirut government hospital in Bir Hassan could be
completed within six months if the illegal houses next to the hospital's main
entrance where 38 displaced families are living are demolished, Health Minister
Karam Karam said.
"Elissar", the estate company developing parts of
Beirut's southern suburbs and responsible for evacuating the displaced there,
could become a victim of the government's drive to amalgamate, replace, or axe
74 public institutions to reduce public spending.
According to an
executive at "Elissar", who wished not to be named, the company's initial offer
of compensation to thew families was turned down as insufficient.
Recommendations made by a special ministerial committee as the fate of 33 of
these government bodies will be discussed during Thursday's Cabinet meeting,
but "Elissar" will not be one of them. This is likely to delay a solution to
the problems that have plagued the Beirut hospital project even further.
far, $110 million has been spent on the hospital's construction. An additional
$27 million from the Saudi Development Fund has been allocated for equipping
22 January 1999:
25 houses in Ain Borday which had been occupied by squatters for the past 23
years were handed back to their owners.
Ain Borday, located on a hill south
of Baalbeck, has some 35 houses, 10 of which had been sold by their Christian
owners. The village never witnessed any fighting during the war, but most of
his residents fled. Some sold their homes which were occupied by Muslims
The handover took place after 45 squatters were given from Jan.
15-22 to leave the houses. They each received $6000 compensation from the
Central Fund for the Displaced.
23 January 1999:
(Chouf), the displaced applied for two types of compensation: renovation or
The ministry figures show that out of 876 renovation files,
486 are considered closed, after having received the second of two
But of more than 4,100 reconstruction applications, 1 163
families have received their first payment. Of those, 838 completed the first
phase and received a second payment, while only 253 received the third and the
These figures indicate that fewer than 1000 out of
5000-plus applications are completed. If Damour is any indication, the project
is less than 20% complete after more than 5 years, meaning another 20 years is
25 January 1999:
ago the village of Damour was displaced.
The church is still being
rebuilt, as is the slowly-returning Maronite community, so masses take place at
a makeshift chapel in an underground room with plastic chairs for pews.
Ministry for the Displaced is located in Damour, on one of the many streets
that have more than their fair share of potholes and uncompleted road
The uncompleted homes appear even more impressive in comparison to
their less well-off neighbors. The war is over, but the returns far from being
so in Damour, where fewer than 200 families have returned thus far.
28 January 1999:
municipality in Akkar agreed to give additional time to squatters to vacate the
shacks they had built on public property before they are knocked down. The
squatters have refused to leave four shacks in Halba where they have been
living for the past 25 years and said they needed additional time to find
Security forces intervened to fend off the
squatters. They are poor so they need compensations.
16 February 1999: Minister for the
Displaced Anwar Khalil said that the next phase of the return would take place
on an equal basis throughout the country, insisting that there would be no
favoring one area over another.
The evacuation of buildings whose status
had already been settled by the judiciary would take place as soon as the
required funds for compensation were secured.
17 February 1999:
Fund for the Displaced paid out compensation to evacuate war-displaced families
living in rundown buildings in the Beqar area in Tripoli; since these buildings
will have to be pulled down.
The CFD maintains to complete lists of
families living in deteriorated buildings in the area. Several buildings unfit
for habitation collapsed last winter under the pressure of heavy rains and
thunder storms. Three squatters were killed and another injured in Tripoli last
December, when the building they lived in, which was damaged during the civil
19 February 1999:
displaced people continue to inhabit dilapidated flats in Tripoli's war-ravaged
neighborhoods, despite the recent collapse of a condemned building in Al-Qibbeh
that killed three men.
Locals say that little has been done to develop the
areas of al-Tabbaneh and al-Qibbeh, which were destroyed by warring factions
between 1980 and 1985, even after visit by officials with the Ministry for the
Displaced to the area after last December's tragedy.
A project designed to
allow some 30.000 war-displaced refugees to return, and to improve the living
conditions of some 18.000 people living there has seen only a few housing units
They have accused the ministry for the displaced of not
including Tripoli in its program, whereas it is basing its work figures
prepared for the government by the Hariri Foundation in 1995. The report
estimates that in Al-Tabbaneh, 804 buildings need to be rehabilitated. The
figures also place the number of buildings in Al-Qibbeh affected by the war at
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