Batroun’s Politicians – Antoine Zahra, Boutros Harb, Gebran Bassil – Are A Big Fat Failure

It is customary for Lebanese politicians to pay their condolences when someone who has affiliations with their party passes away. That was the case a few weeks ago when a relative of mine died. Don’t worry, the story isn’t about politicians taking the family’s place during the funeral.

Gebran Bassil, arguably Lebanon’s most hated minister, came over to my hometown which lies at a mere 6 km from the main city of my district Batroun in order to offer his sincere condolences to the deceased’s family. Yes, I have Aounists in the family, however shocking that may sound. As he sat with the family in our Church’s hall, both his drivers (one drives him, the other is a decoy) were busy smoking outside. I overheard the following conversation:

– Man, did you see this fucked up road?

– Yes I did.

– Did you tell Gebran about it?

– To be honest, sta7eit menno (I was too shy to tell him).

The main road of the Batroun district which spans from the city to my hometown has been in total ruin since June. By total ruin I mean: breaking your car every single time you go up and down the hill, potholes that spring up out of nowhere, four attempts to fix it so far that have all been an absolute and utter failure, newer asphalt of such bad quality that a drizzle suffices to rip it off from the road. And the list goes on.

This started when an ambitious project to lay down sewage and water pipes started. Of course, both projects had different contracting companies so they dug on different sides of the road. Sewage went in the middle, water went on the side. We also had a third contractor to supposedly fix the road once the work was done. If that’s not a waste of our taxpayer money, I don’t know what is.

This isn’t a post about the project which I believe is a must in the 21st century. This is about Batroun’s three main politicians: its two MPs Antoine Zahra of the Lebanese Forces, Boutros Harb who is apparently now an independent (insert insane laughter) and its one minister Gebran Bassil of the Free Patriotic Movement.

Our three politicians should theoretically use this road very often. It is 1) the only way into the main and big villages of the district (Ebrine, Douma, Tannourine) and 2) the way home for both Zahra (Kfifan) and Harb (Tannourine). Haven’t they heard that the situation has become unacceptable? Or are they waiting until our cars have gone to the repair shop twenty three times before they decide to do something about it, perhaps around April or May, just in time to cash in on those votes?

I’m not even sure my district’s politicians know about the road. They sit in the back of their luxury cars with their dark tainted-windows, totally oblivious to the massacre their overpriced car is going through. They go about their business, shake a few hands, have their asses kissed a few times and then head back to Beirut to their fancy mansions where the woes of their district don’t haunt them.

The least I can expect from my district’s politicians is to care about the people of their district first and foremost as the place that may or may not vote them back in come June 2013. If they’re not aware of the situation of their district’s main road, what does that say about them?

Future TV has already visited the area to document the road’s current state and interview a few people in the hopes they’d pin it all on Gebran Bassil. What Future TV doesn’t know, however, is the following: the fact that the Batroun’s caza main road has fallen into the state of disrepair that I will show you in a few without any of the district’s politicians caring is a reflection on 1) how big of a failure they are, 2) how little they care about us outside of our electoral votes and 3) how little they are willing to work if it doesn’t bring immediate rewards.

Accountability is key. If we, the newer generation isn’t critical of how things are run around our own neighborhoods, what do we leave to those on whom the ship has sailed? I refuse to have my first time voting be nothing more and nothing less than a sheep being taken to a ballot.

I, Elie Fares,hereby proclaim that I will not be voting for any of these three politicians come June if the road is not fixed. As an influencer, I will also do my best to strip all three of them from as many votes as I can. I’m sure this article will reach party officials that have been taking my vote for granted for far too long now. Therefore, consider this: kaleim youssal.

These are the untouched & unaltered (except for size reduction) pictures that I took with my iPhone while driving back home yesterday:

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The "fixed" part of the road is a hole in itself as evident by the mini-stream flowing through it

The “fixed” part of the road is a hole in itself as evident by the mini-stream flowing through it

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The Batroun – Tannourine Highway

Back in 2000, I used to go on trips to Tannourine with a friend and complain about the constant works taking place on the roads leading there.

“It’s for a good thing,” the man always told me. I never knew what he meant until very recently. I only realized the importance of the full scope of the project at hand yesterday when it took me ten minutes to get from my hometown to Tannourine, using the newly opened section of the Batroun-Tannourine Highway, the part extending from the town of Bejdarfel to Assia.

Easier commute, easier ambulance trips, easier impromptu road trips…. You name it.

We, as Lebanese, always nag about the dismal state of our infrastructure. So it’s nice to highlight something good for a change. And this is definitely on the advanced side. Instead of working on already existing roads, they’ve created new ones in valleys and mountains to cut distances short. And the effort put in the highway shows.

There’s still a little more work that needs to be done on some of the newly finished sections: put up lanes and fix some asphalt-related issues, but overall, it is a great drive. At some points, with the towering mountains around you all full of snow, you feel like you’ve been taken out of the stereotype image you have of Lebanon and to some section of the Italian alps. It is absolutely breathtaking.

Batroun’s MPs have been working hard to get the highway plans underway and hopefully their enthusiasm and the highway will be properly maintained. The final stretch of the project extending from my hometown, Ebrine, to Batroun will start soon.

The newly finished part, just outside the town of Bejdarfel

Just outside my best friend's hometown: Boxmaya. Apparently you can go to Al Koura from here as well. I had no idea.

The older part of the highway

I bet Fairuz would be happy that her trip from Hamlaya to Tannourine is rendered much shorter now.

The Jal El Dib Bridge & The Case of Mass Lebanese Hysteria

Sure, Lebanon’s infrastructure isn’t exactly top notch. Who are we kidding, Lebanon’s infrastructure can barely be called infrastructure.  Some of the roads have massive potholes in them that can damage your car sometimes beyond repair. I saw potholes in France and Spain when I visited back in August but you know those potholes will get fixed as soon as possible there. The only way ours get fixed is someone dying because of a car accident caused by those potholes or sometime in May 2013, just before the elections.

As you know, an Achrafieh building collapsed on Sunday, taking the lives of 26 people with it. Everyone was rightfully saddened by that tragedy and many people have sought ways they could help. Soon enough, however, people started panicking about the Jal El Dib metal bridge, as well as the Charles Helou bridge in Beirut, calling them unsafe and nearing crumbling.

Those bridges are definitely high-risk. The Jal El Dib was supposed to be a “temporary” bridge until they build a better structure in its place. But one cannot but wonder, as Beirut Spring pointed out, if this is simply Lebanese hysteria (which usually lasts a few days to a week) after a national tragedy that involved infrastructure. It happened with the

Sure, both bridges are poorly maintained. The Jal El Dib bridge doesn’t even have asphalt on it anymore. We’ve been driving our cars on metal for the past four years. If that’s not enough reason to have the bridge changed, I don’t know what is. However, is the bridge about to collapse? A civil engineer friend of mine told me there’s no proof based on the pictures taken of the bridge that it is about to do so.

One of the ministers in our government, however, so aptly declared that it is about to collapse, which sent the people into a frenzy. And yet, a few days later, the bridge was still not removed. You’d think a minister declaring such a thing would get the government to work in order to expedite whatever paperwork they are cowering behind. Apparently not.

In fact, the level of panic got to a whole new level when normal Friday traffic around the Jal El Dib area was perceived by many as caused by the removal of the bridge, which didn’t as of this post happen yet. And as it is with our Lebanese lifestyle, this time next week people would have moved on to another story altogether and the bridges which should have been removed a couple of years ago will remain there for a couple of years more.

At the end of the day, life goes on, people forget… so until the next tragedy, cheers to our resilience my fellow Lebanese.