Adonis Diaries

Archive for April 29th, 2018

Tidbits and notes posted on FB and Twitter. Part 190

Note: I take notes of books I read and comment on events and edit sentences that fit my style. I pa attention to researched documentaries and serious links I receive. The page is long and growing like crazy, and the sections I post contains a month-old events that are worth refreshing your memory.

If Timor Lank had not vanquished the Turkish army in 1400, then the Byzantium Capital of Constantinople would have fallen 50 years earlier, along with most of Europe. There would have been no Renaissance

In 1400, the enmities between Genoa and Venice was at its zenith, the Kingdom of Poland was weak, there was no Russian Empire, and the King Henry of Portugal had not begun challenging the high seas to discover new routes to India and the Far East. There would be no Western Europe or the Renaissance if the Ottoman army was Not completely defeated by Timorlane.

And the King of France Charles 8 would not have entered and ruined Rome and displaced the skilled artisans and thinkers, all located and concentrated in Papal Rome, dispersing them to all over western Europe that started the Renaissance.

Robert Reilly said about the puritanical trials of the homosexuals in Britain: “The many biographers have given the facts, but they left out the feelings.”

Oscar Wilde told his wife Frances: “Shall I ever conquer that harsh and golden city?  I have produced nothing in over a year except Cyril (his son).  I have done nothing since my marriage. Perhaps I am too happy to work

Oscar went on: “Between them, Shakespeare and Balzac, they have said everything worth saying. I am a little closer to my lifelong ambition to be the first well-dressed philosopher in the history of thought

Lady Effingham was quite altered by her husband’s death.  She looked twenty years younger.  In fact her hair has turned quite gold from grief.” (Oscar Wilde)

“In married life, three’s a company, two’s a crowd.”

“I like to carry my diary when I travel; one should always have something sensational to read in the train.”

Ignorance is like an exotic fruit; touch it and the bloom is gone.”

“Novels that end happily invariably leave one feeling depressed.”

“If one tells the truth, one is sure, sooner or later, to be found out.”

Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others.”

“The realization of oneself is the prime aim of life; realizing this aim through pleasure is finer than to do so through pain.”

Ta ghayyaret awlawiyaat Tellerson: wousoulaho al Khamees moush nahar al daynounet. Israel ma 3aadat 3askariyyan mouhemat kharijiyyan lel USA, aflasat. Israel mouhemat daakhiliyyan fi USA lal

Shou bye3neh Netaniyaho: Ma bte3nina al tas3eed? USA jabreto wa tole3 bi swaad al wajeh?

Waa7ed F16? Israel 3enda kteer minha. Laken kasser sourataha (edrob wa ohrob) 3ind al Israili wa Saudi Kingdom ma btet3awad

Why Politicians in Lebanon Don’t Know the Issues?

Most of them don’t even read or participate in the discussions

April 2018

Sami Atallah and Mohamad Diab, respectively LCPS executive director and LCPS research associate

As part of LCPS’s work (Lebanese Center for Policy Studies) on monitoring the Lebanese Parliament, we are publishing a series of articles on the performance of the country’s national legislative body. These articles will focus on issues ranging from coherence among aligned parties and MPs, to the relationship lawmakers have with constituents. 

This article assesses MP’s stated positions on an array of policy issues to determine which issues they agree on, those on which they disagree, and the extent to which their positions are consistent with those of their party. 

In the midst of election season, political parties have unleashed a series of policy promises ranging from decentralization to balanced development and from universal healthcare to pension reform.

While it hardly takes any effort for them to express such policy views, explaining how to best achieve them is an entirely different task.

It requires that politicians have a minimum level of policy knowledge as well as consistency across a number of inter-related issues for their promises to be credible.

To call for a specific policy such as providing universal healthcare or fighting poverty, political parties must propose fiscal measures to meet those goals.

As part of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies’ work on the parliament, we sought to identify the policy positions of MPs over a set of 27  issues—including decentralization, taxes, poverty, healthcare, support for the productive sector, rental laws, public services, public property, women’s rights, and capital punishment, among others—as well as determine the level of commitment to advocating for these policies by examining their consistency across related policies.

To accomplish this, we interviewed 65 MPs from different political parties—those who have accepted to see us—out of 128 legislators in 2015 and 2016 to ask them what their policy preferences are.

At first glance, MPs seem to be very supportive of providing universal healthcare to citizens, widening  decentralization to the qada level, mitigating social disparities, protecting public property, reducing or even annulling taxes on basic consumption goods, and bestowing upon women the right to pass on Lebanese nationality to their spouses and children. However, their endorsement fades as one takes a deeper look at their preferences in relation to other policies.

Consider decentralization.

Although MPs strongly support the establishment of qada councils (district) , there is less consensus across political blocs regarding their mandates.

Some MPs support wide responsibilities being entrusted to qada councils so they can develop and implement projects, while others believe that their mandates should be confined to few responsibilities. Holding opposing views is not inherently problematic but the inconsistency shown by MPs when asked about the fiscal resources that should be entrusted to the qada councils is worrying.

When we compared MPs’ stated positions on qada’s responsibilities versus fiscal resources to be granted to these qadas, several issues emerged.

One-quarter of interviewed MPs had an inconsistent view on decentralization. They favored limited authority to qada councils but would grant them considerable fiscal resources, which is not commensurate with their responsibilities.

Another 21 MPs—one-third of those interviewed—seem to be overzealous about decentralization to the extent that it is detrimental to the state as they favor granting qada councils wide authority while also providing them with considerably more fiscal resources than required, exceeding the 35% ratio international benchmark. Clearly, there is at best lack of clarity on how to move forward on decentralization.

On another set of policies, MPs strongly support state efforts to mitigate social disparities and develop comprehensive poverty programs but they are not willing to complement them with necessary policies to reach those ends.

For instance, mitigating social disparities can be dealt with in various ways such as reducing consumption taxes, increasing income or profit taxes, developing poverty programs, or revising the rental law of 2014 or any combination of the above.

Out of the 43 MPs who support reducing social disparities, only twenty-nine are willing to reduce consumption taxes, which could help reduce the gap since consumption tax is regressive. Only twenty-four are willing to increase taxes on income and profits,[1] and only seventeen want to annul the rental law of 2014.

In other instances, MPs across the political spectrum may hold similar policy views but this convergence has not been capitalized on to become a law.

Take for example healthcare.

While MPs overwhelmingly supported providing universal healthcare to citizens, this consensus failed to materialize into a policy that benefits citizens.

In the meantime, the rental law, which was passed in 2014 by parliament, seems to be the most controversial out of the twenty-seven issues with the least degree of consensus among the MPs that we have met.

Roughly one-third of MPs were supportive of the 2014 rental law and the remaining two-thirds were either opposed or neutral. With such narrow support, it is surprising that the law mustered enough votes.

So how is it that an issue with little effective support becomes a law whereas universal health care which enjoys a high level of consensus fails to materialize?

This casts a big shadow either on the honesty of their policy positions during the interview or in their ability to capitalize on consensus and transform it into a policy that addresses peoples’ needs.

While MPs and current candidates will be juggling policy positions, they are hardly credible unless specifics are provided.

Certainly, some of these MPs could engage in substantive and policy-based dialogue with the public and their legislative colleagues. Yet, many have demonstrated that in their time as lawmakers, (over at least 9 years) they clearly do not understand the issues at hand or are not willing to work in the public interest.

Ameliorating this would likely require a shift—if ever so gradual—among the electorate, one which demands competency among the country’s elected leaders. Then it could be expected that candidates and parties adopt policy platforms and clearly favor specific policies during political campaigns.

[1] In fact, only 20 out of 43 MPs are willing to reduce consumption tax and increase capital tax. In effect, this gives little support for income gap mitigation.




April 2018

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