Beirut- The dispute among Lebanese parties on the Public Works Ministry reflects the importance of the portfolio for different parliamentary blocs, mainly ahead of next May’s legislative elections.
The ministry that is headed by Caretaker Minister Ghazi Zoaiter, who is close to Speaker Nabih Berri, remains one of the last obstacles to the formation of the new government.
Berri refuses to give up the ministry – which has been largely taken advantage of during parliamentary elections – as part of his share in the cabinet while the Lebanese Forces and the Marada Movement are bickering over it.
Zoaiter stressed in remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat that Berri’s request to keep the ministry is in no way linked to electoral campaigns. “This is an insult to the Lebanese people,” he said.
Rabih Haber, the Managing Director of Statistics Lebanon Ltd, said however that the Public Works Ministry is dubbed the ministry of “asphalt” for being active in paving roads in the areas of influence of the person heading the ministry and the party backing him ahead of general elections.
Economist Sami Nader also said that the services provided by the Public Works Ministry largely contribute to the results of the polls.
In his remarks to Asharq Al-Awsat, Zoaiter acknowledged that his ministry has not implemented all the projects it intended to do during its tenure. The main reason lies in the political situation and the limited budget, he said.
The situation would not change for the new cabinet because its main mission would be to agree on a new electoral law ahead of the elections next spring, he added.
Zoaiter has come under severe criticism for allegedly not being fair in carrying out projects across Lebanon.
Several politicians and media outlets have accused him of implementing projects in Baalbek, Hermel and the Bekaa where he has wide popular support.
But the minister has rejected such criticism, saying the works carried out by his ministry are distributed fairly among different areas.
He also said that he will soon release a detailed report on the projects implemented by the Public Works Ministry and their geographic distribution.