Tripoli, 23 June 2013:
The Tripoli Local Council (TLC) treasury is running on fumes as the promised budget has not been . . .[restrict]made available to it. Despite all the high-level meetings and assurances, situation as stayed the same for months.
Councillors suspect Prime Minister Zeidan of deliberately delaying the budget for all local authorities until after the upcoming municipality elections.
The budget issue has been raised several times with the Minister of Local Government, Abubaker Al-Hadi Mohammed and few times directly with Zeidan. Despite all the assurances nothing has been done. All local councils are being given an administrative budget to run their basic operations but lack the funds to carry out any progressive work. Two years and two governments down the line, there is now considerable frustration.
The head of Tripoli Local Council, Sadat Elbadri blames the budget restrictions for not permitting the local council of the capital city to perform its daily tasks.
“It’s frustrating that we are reduced to mere observers” he told the Libya Herald. “We cannot perform day-to-day functions. Funding is the basic requirement to run a city. People have so many expectations but there is nothing we can do with the type of budget we get. We asked for an emergency budget to at least do what we can on a minimal scale, but we never got it.”
Elbadri said that he met Zeidan personally to explain the situation but Elbadri maintained that the prime minister never gave enough time to listen to the problems of Tripoli. “Every time I explain problems that we are facing, he only has 10 minutes for it. You are talking about the capital, it should get the attention it deserves.
“Once, he told me to submit budget to the Minister of Local Government and ask him to bring it to the weekly ministerial meeting,” said Elbadri. “Me and other TLC officials worked day and night to finish the budget in time and we submitted it in time. But the minister didn’t take it by hand and instead sent it through officials channels. We are still waiting to hear back on that and it’s been almost two months now.”
Elbadri also said that Zeidan should work out a plan so he can focus properly on the many key issues facing his government.
“He (Zeidan) is a nice man. We were once together in the opposition groups. I know that he wants good for the country but he needs to get a strategy in place and plan accordingly so he doesn’t ignore many important issues.”
Elbadri said that despite the budget restrictions, Tripoli’s council tries its best to serve the people. “We try to squeeze funds even from whatever little we have, and do what’s required. We are also helping schools that are in dire need of attention, although it is not our duty but somebody has to do something.”
Elbadri maintains that the arrival of new councils after the municipal elections should not be a reason not to give the existing authorities proper budgets. Once the elections were over, whatever funds were left from the original budget would simply be transferred to the new councils.
“The elections are a few months away. All this time is wasted just to provide budget to the elected council. So many things could have been done in this time and after the elections we could have transferred the balance to new council.”
The tensions between the prime minister and the existing councils over both funding and the upcoming municipal elections may be deepening. Earlier this month a two-day conference of local councils from across Libya was held in Tripoli in coordination with the General National Congress but government officials were not invited. However, Zeidan, on the same day as of conference visited several small towns and cities along with his Health and Interior ministers in a tour that some saw as a move to undermine the Tripoli conference.