CASE IN POINT: Ghassan Atallah
Although Ghassan Atallah’s tenure as Minister of the Displaced was relatively short (February 2019 to October 2019), his achievements and work were remarkable, whether in resolving many of the Displaced convoluted issues or fighting corruption within the ministry.
The following is a list of his most substantial accomplishments:
1- Controlled the ministry’s spending.
2- Eliminated one of the three rented floors in Starco.
3- Acquired a grant of 100 million Lebanese Liras for the ministry.
4- Improved and solidified the relationship between the Ministry of the Displaced and the Fund for the Displaced.
5- Held the “Mass of Repentance and Forgiveness” on March 23, 2019, in memory of the martyrs of March 16, 1977.
6- Proposed a law aimed at exempting the displaced from water, electricity, construction, and transportation fees, as well as delay fines.
7- Implemented discounts on fees for all investments that originate or are executed in displacement villages.
8- Devised a comprehensive plan to deal with the remaining files in the Ministry and the Fund, in accordance with a clear mechanism based on scientific metrics, to ensure the restoration of all rights back to their owners.
9- Diligently pursued to achieve the reconciliations of Kafr Silwan – Jouwar Al Haouz (Baabda) and Hilan (Zgharta) by holding meetings with the concerned parties from both sides.
10- Completed the eviction clause — one of the pending items in the ministry.
11- Returned illegally seized homes to their legitimate owners.
12- Achieved significant savings for the state treasury after applying the criteria set in the plan.
13- Carried out several periodic tours in various Chouf villages and towns to supervise the proper functioning of the projects financed by the Fund, complete the inspection of the damages, attend to the needs of the villages, and seek to secure their needs, namely by obtaining irrigation and water projects for agricultural areas, lighting public roads, and establishing health clinics.
14- Fought corruption by aiding the financial investigation judge to prosecute four employees of the ministry on charges of corruption and wasting public money.
15- Sought to find development solutions in the Bekaa and Akkar, which were affected by displacement during the Civil War.
16- Conducted assessment tours to inspect the damages of the war that still exist in some towns.
17- Obtained 40 billion Lebanese Liras for the Fund of the Displaced from the 2019 national budget, despite the political battle to prevent the Ministry from obtaining the amount.
18- Met with Lebanese expatriates in Canada, France, and Kuwait to explain the ministry’s action plan and objectives.
19- Met with various political parties to explain the plan.
20- (For the first time in the history of the Ministry of the Displaced), made contact with a number of international donor institutions and foreign embassies for the purpose of establishing cooperation protocols to finance development projects in the various villages of displacement, especially with Hungary to secure the necessary funding to restore a number of churches in the villages of displacement.
Atallah’s most noteworthy achievement is his insistence to complete his work in the ministry, despite the resignation of PM Saad Hariri on October 29, 2019, and while the October 17th uprising riddled Lebanon’s stability violent street demonstrations, and road blockades.
There are traditional ministers in Lebanon who seek prestigious titles and fancy lifestyles, but characteristically “disappear” when the going gets tough… And there are hardworking, relentless, and competent ministers like Ghassan Atallah, whose tenacity, patriotism, and ethics are embodied in his accomplishments and goals.