Adonis Diaries

Moment of reckoning: Pseudo-State in Lebanon at a cross-road

Posted on: July 31, 2012

Moment of reckoning: Pseudo-State in Lebanon at a cross-road

If you need credible statistics on Lebanon, the best institution with a comprehensive power and knowledge is the Finance Ministry.

Currently, the pseudo-State in Lebanon has to support 180,000 public servants, constituting 16% of the total work force. You have to add 20,000 public servants camouflage under private companies, their chairmen and managers appointed by the government such as Casino du Liban, the Middle-East airline, Intra financial institution…

The ratio of public servants was 10% five years ago.

The cost amount to $5 bn or 12% of Lebanon GNP

The government has also to service a public debt that reached 135% of the GNP, and subsidize the public electricity with $2 bn a year…

It is no surprise that Lebanon Central Bank has desisted in producing yearly balance sheet since 2002. Why?

Most of the credits are being borrowed internally from local banks that are growing richer and more omnipotent in every economical sector: The banks own most of the wealth in Lebanon, alongside the religious real estates…

The economy of Lebanon has not increased in the last 2 years.

What a pseudo-State, run by oligarchic confessional powers and financed by banks, can do to reform the inevitable structural financial and economic calamities?

So far, the pseudo-State has lavished wage increases and bonuses on particular institutions (like the officers in the army and internal security agencies, the institutions directly linked to the Prime Minister, the Chairman of the Parliament and the President of the Republic…) and denied any cost of living increases to most public institution in the last 20 years.

In the last 20 years, special “Black Boxes” were allocated to the Prime Ministers (Calamity Box) and reconstruction of downtown Beirut(starting with late Rafic Hariri), Chairman of the Parliament Nabih Berry (South Box), Walid Jumblatt (Relocation of refugees Box)…

Many wage increases are on books but have never been disbursed…

The vast majority of public servants such as the public school teachers (60,000) are demonstrating for a reform of their chain of ranks and salaries that didn’t change in the last 20 years. They refuse to correct the public exams until the government signs on what has been agreed on a year ago…

The government is solvable, but it has been bled to death by the oligarchy since 1993.

In 1983, the dollar was worth 3 Lebanese pounds and suddenly the financial system collapsed and the dollar was worth 3,000 LB.  The currency went to hell and the citizens became slaves to the warlords militia (still receiving foreign money) in order to survive. The dollar is currently worth 1,500 LB…

This selective hiring of unqualified public servants, allocated to the confessional political leaders, has driven the government to the wall. The two main consequences are:

1. The private sector is no longer able to support the growing needs of the government to satisfy decisions not related to fundamental economic and financial policies. Actually, the government has been increasing direct and indirect taxes on every service and commodities for the past 7 years.

2. The public servants potential salary increase demands are not sustainable for the medium-term. The short-term policies do not match the capabilities for satisfying frequent demands, which are fair, but not possible within this political/social structure.

The government and the political system are sending the strong message that they are impotent to resolving any single trouble ravaging Lebanon.

Every clerics with a hundred followers thinks that he has the right to block the entrance to major cities for political demands that are of no concern to the citizens. The self-appointed Sunni cleric Al Assir (extradited by England) has been blocking for a month the main highway to the third city of Saida. His installed his tents and is preaching the dismantlement of the military branch of Hezbollah… The government and the local leaders didn’t show any resolve to break off this “civil disobedience”. Why? Al Assir is being funded and supported by foreign powers (Saudi Arabia and Qatar…)

North of Lebanon is fast becoming a “liberated area” for the Syrian insurgents to come and exit at will. The army didn’t receive any order to close off the borders and control the flux of the refugees, reaching 30,000 so far.  The most dangerous climate is that many of these Syrian insurgents in Lebanon have been engaged in kidnapping for ransom and had committed crimes before “fleeing” to Lebanon. The government is claiming that it didn’t spend a dime on caring for the refugees, that Denmark and the UN are funding the relocations of these refugees…

Turkey and Jordan totally control their borders with Syria. Not a single Syrian can return to Syria without proper approved papers, and not a single piece of arm can enter Syria without the approval of the State government…

The army in Lebanon is asked to play the internal security function with archaic arms and equipments. And the internal security forces (well armed, well paid and well fed) are to be private guards to the hundreds of oligarchs…

About 3,000 temporary contract workers have been investing the main headquarter, for over a month, of the public electricity, blocking streets, open sit-in, occupying the administrative building, waging strikes, marches, harassing the public employees…cutting electricity and preventing the normal functioning of the public servants for entering any institution related to power generation and distribution. Why?

The political oligarchy has created pseudo private companies to “facilitate the job” of the Ministry of Electricity and Water. These companies are mainly financed by the government under contracts and their managers and directors appointed by the oligarchs. The temporary workers were assigned by the oligarchs. The government is short on liquidity and these pseudo companies want to unload of surplus temp. workers and want the government to hire them as public servants on fixed jobs…

Most of these temp. workers have been hired less than three years ago and most of them have no qualifications as public servants. The Chairman of the Parliament Nabih Berry, Samir Geaja (Lebanese Forces), and the Hariri clan have been supporting the movement of these temp.workers “for their well-earned rights”… against all odds and regulations…

Signs and banners by the daily contract workers state: “We are Lebanese not for sale”; “The gift of fanaticism and sectarianism to the Lebanese”…

Why the government has to absorb these workers?

For the last 20 years, the oligarchs planned to privatize the public electricity for a dime, and refused to fund any programs and projects meant to make this institution profitable…

In 2010, the government was forced to vote on a comprehensive plan for delivering electricity 24 hours a day by the year 2016, but all programs were halted for “lack of budget” and all kinds of excuses….

Lebanon is fast drifting to the moment of reckoning: Either a vast and successful civil disobedience movement intent on changing the political system or facing another looming civil war with the same basic political conditions, as the previous one in 1975, forming and gaining strength.

The army, if it is meant to stay unified, must be financed by the civil disobedience movement and not expect to be at beck of the oligarchy and confessional system, and keeping dialogue and communication opened with the movement.

The movement should start collecting taxes directly from the citizens and disbursing the fund to the most critical institutions for smooth running of the country.

Note 1: Information on the public servants in Lebanon was taken from an article by Jihad Zein, published in the daily Al Nahar.

Note 2: Lebanon “economy” is based on three sectors: Banking, Real Estates, and all kinds of trafficking that are raking most of the revenues and barely pay taxes. The political system refuses to tax these sectors and prefers to target the hard working and producing sectors that are barely standing and not getting any state support or assistance.

The banks in Lebanon have increased their initial share of $146 million in 1993 to $15 bn in the last 2 decades and making 1.5 bn in profit every year. The banks in Lebanon reap 4.5 times more profit what the banks in the Western States generate, and refuse to increase their share in taxation from 5 to 7%.

The Real Estates developers are generating $10 bn a year in revenue and pay no taxes.

People in Lebanon are surviving on expatriate generosity.

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