Row ends, Manama facelift a step closer
Manama, April 25, 2014
A raft of major improvements to large areas of Manama could finally get the go-ahead after municipal councillors and senior government officials resolved their long-standing differences yesterday, a report said.
Manama Municipal Council and the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry have been at each other's throats in recent months over planned recreational and industrial investment projects in parts of the capital, the Gulf Daily News report said.
Areas earmarked for improvement include the King Faisal and Al Fateh Corniches, as well as outlying areas such as Bilad Al Qadeem and Nabih Saleh.
The quarrel reached its climax last month when Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Minister Dr Juma Al Ka'abi failed to attend a municipal council meeting, where he was set to be quizzed on several projects that have been delayed for more than four years, the report said.
Councillors, suspecting a deliberate evasion, suspended their regular meetings and only resumed talks three weeks later - yet these meetings snubbed Dr Al Ka'abi altogether, with all decisions referred directly to the Cabinet.
However, the two sides have now resolved to turn over a new leaf in their relationship after an extraordinary council meeting held yesterday.
"Councillors have been blaming the ministry, saying that we don't take into consideration their proposals and ideas," said Dr Al Ka'abi.
"But they have to be aware that if they succeed we succeed, as municipal work is a collaborative effort between the executive and legislative authorities.
"We have come here to open a new chapter in our relationship with councillors, who I can't blame for their anger because officials didn't seem to present them with the full picture or a clear vision of the reasons behind the delays.
"The ministry will hold regular meetings with councillors on every project and seek the council's opinion in decision-making, which we believe will help put things back on the right track."
Dr Al Ka'abi said that investment projects planned for King Faisal and Al Fateh Corniches and Manama Central Market, for example, could not go ahead without the support of the municipal council.
"That in itself represents millions in future revenue that the country will be getting, but we have to work to attract investors - and now with our new relationship with the council, I believe we can easily do that," he said.
Demands made by the municipal council to lift a 40-year development-ban in the Bilad Al Qadeem greenbelt zone and a 20-year housing ban in Nabih Saleh were under study, Dr Al Ka'abi added.
"The greenbelt's blueprints are ready and will be presented after directives from my side to those concerned to speed up work that has been stalled for 10 years," he said.
"But for Nabih Saleh the issue is complex as the Industry and Commerce Ministry wants land there for its projects, the Works Ministry for infrastructure and the Housing Ministry for new batches of government homes.
"We don't need pessimism and now is the time for real work, for the good of citizens and residents."
Municipal council chairman Majeed Millad Al Jazeeri said that he hoped the minister and ministry officials were genuine in their claims that they would support the council, which has been elected to represent the people. A list of blueprints for future zoning and classifications of the areas concerned will be presented next week. - TradeArabia News Service