TBY talks to Bilal S. Hamad, President of the Municipal Council of Beirut, on measures to improve the administration, major projects, and visions for the future of the city.
TBY With the newly elected cabinet, how are you looking to improve coordination with the Municipality?
BILAL S. HAMAD The Municipality of Beirut is like an open government—our work is not politics, it is development. We were elected to serve everyone, so whoever becomes Prime Minister, or Interior Minister, we have to deal with them. I met with Prime Minister Mikati and we agreed on how to work on our agenda, and I met with the Interior Minister because I report to him, as he is also the Minister for all municipalities as well. All municipalities have to report to him directly. For example, whenever I have a big project I have to obtain approval from the Minister, and some of the projects have to go all the way to the Council of Ministers. We have agreed on how to push forward Beirut’s various projects, and I will be provided with all the necessary support to get these projects moving and fulfill their potential.
What are your strategies for improving efficiency and completing projects?
The problem with people in the public sector is that they will not meet to solve problems. When I came into office, I told players in the various sectors that whenever they had a problem, before they send me an answer we should meet. Getting all parties concerned with a project together around a table helped to solve many issues. Furthermore, the US is sponsoring our project to boost efficiency through the New York University of Albany, which helps municipalities in Lebanon, including that of Beirut, which aim to review our by-laws and make them more efficient, and to review the overall system that works between the departments in a municipality.
What main projects you are working on, and what projects would you like to work on?
The most important issue is solving the traffic and parking problem in Beirut. In order to do this we are working in a few different directions. The first order of the day is to solve intersection problems, and make the traffic flow smoother by creating underpasses. The second is to install proper traffic lights and to establish a control center. At the moment we have the equipment, but we do not have the know-how, hence people need to be trained to operate such equipment. The third method is to open roads in Beirut that have been closed until now. As there is no mandate to not construct roads, those roads that had been planned in the past are now being opened up. We hope this project will make traffic smoother throughout the city.
What is your vision for the future of the city?
My vision for the future of Beirut is that I want the people to love their city. I love this city. The only time I left was for graduate school. I believe in working for Beirut, and serving the community to make a difference. I believe we can make many positive changes to this city, as it already has something special about it. We’re going to continue working on cleanliness, beauty, and the environment. The city is hugely diverse, and is a beacon of peaceful coexistence for the region.
How open is the economy in Beirut?
It is open to everyone. That is what is beautiful about Beirut. We want to maintain that and build on it for the future. Let’s have more projects inside Beirut and let’s solve these problems, because if Beirut succeeds, Lebanon succeeds. That is why whoever controls the government is welcome to work with us, coordinate with us, and they will find us more than willing to work with them for the future and for the progress of Beirut.
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