Today, Thursday, the Lebanese Ministry of Public Works and Transport retracted a contract to expand Beirut International Airport, after it sparked controversy over its legality and transparency in a country experiencing economic collapse.
And the Minister of Public Works and Transport, Ali Hamiyah, announced in posts on his Twitter account: “Despite the importance of the project for the construction of the new terminal for travelers, and in the wake of the legal controversy taking place in the country, and to resolve the difference in viewpoints, I announced it with all courage not to proceed with the contract and consider it Like it doesn’t exist.”
Hamiyah preempted a meeting of the Public Works, Transport, Energy and Water Committee in Parliament, which was devoted to discussing the contract for the expansion of Rafic Hariri International Airport, the only passenger airport in Lebanon, which has not witnessed any expansion projects since it ended in 1998 with a huge workshop to rehabilitate it, according to “AFP”.
Hamiyah announced last week the conclusion of a contract to construct a new terminal for passengers at the airport after “attracting financing, investment and operation from abroad, without the public treasury bearing any burdens.”
The ministry concluded with the Lebanese Air Transport Company (LAT), which has been operating at Beirut airport for decades, an agreement to “finance the entire project’s components”, at a value of $122 million, provided that a company owned by the government of Ireland will operate the new building for a period of 25 years.
The move sparked criticism from deputies and non-governmental organizations, especially in terms of reaching a consensual agreement inconsistent with the Public Procurement Law issued in 2021, and some questioned the authority of a caretaker government to decide on contracts of this magnitude.
Non-governmental organizations, including Transparency International-Lebanon, said that the aim of the new public procurement law is to “put an end to years-long practices of non-transparent procurement and ineffective spending.”
The International Monetary Fund, which was awaiting the implementation of urgent reforms to launch an aid plan for Lebanon, announced that the public procurement law must be “implemented quickly.”
Since 2019, Lebanon has been witnessing an economic collapse that is considered the worst in the country’s history, coinciding with political paralysis and a vacuum in the presidency as a result of political divisions that have prevented the election of a president for nearly five months. The country is led by a caretaker government, which obstructs decision-making at all levels.