Corruption is deeply rooted in Lebanese political system and society

Corruption: Lebanon way of life

“Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country.” Karl Kraus

Change and Reform bloc leader Michel Aoun said yesterday that he has “documents” to verify the corruption allegations he made last Friday against some Lebanese political groups. It is funny how Aoun remembers these files when he doesn’t get what he wants in regards of appointment of his followers inside the governmental institutions. After a dispute between his ministers and ministers of the PSP, Aoun threatened that he will take the files of the “Ministry of the displaced” to court.

Lebanon is a fertile land for corruption. It is more than a way of life. Life doesn’t function in Lebanon without corruption. You want to get a driver license without taken a test, bribe someone. You want to build a building illegally, all you have to do is bribe someone. You want to import expired food to the country, just bribe someone. You want to get elected in the next elections (any election) just buy some votes.

Corruption in Lebanon exists in all its forms including bribery, nepotism, favoritism, patronage, embezzlement, kick-backs, and vote-buying.

Transparency International (TI), a leading non-governmental organization devoted to fighting corruption worldwide, released its annual Corruption Perception Index for 2011 that ranked Lebanon in 134th place among 183 countries worldwide and 13th among 17 countries in the Middle East and North Africa region.

In their latest report on corruption, TI said: “The impacts of corruption are tremendous and can be classified as political costs rendering fragile the relationship between citizens and the state, financial costs especially in terms of investment and lack of corporate governance, as well as socio-economic costs.” To read their Arabic Report, follow this link: National Integrity System . Or you can read LTA’s Press Release on the results of the 2011 CPI in English.

Aoun might be right in the case of the “Ministry of the displaced” but he forgot that he never explained the whereabouts of $35 Million dollars that he took with him to France when he was exiled to France from the Lebanese treasury. He refused to return to Lebanon before the proxy-Syrian government closed all the files opened against him. Those were Public money. It was part of the deal for his return. The smell of corruption started to leak out from those around him. Even many inside the FPM critics say they can name a number of politicians who have benefited from compromises done by Michel Aoun, his son in law Minister Gebran Bassil and Prime Minister Miqati. They also started to talk about the electricity and gas and oil deals and who is getting a cut from the FPM ….

What is also amazing is how Aoun never talks about the corruption of his allies. It seems he is oblivious to the corruption of Amal. He tend to forget the “Majlis al-Janoub” ….  Aoun has files on certain politicians but for sure others have file on him and his entourage.

The Lebanese system prevents control and penalization. Culprits are protected by their respective communities and leaders. Everyone gets a cut and national interest doesn’t exist in Lebanon dictionary.

Lebanese must tackle the culture of corruption that is rooted in our society. Whistle-blower protection law and a freedom of information act should be passed in order to provide much-needed transparency for official government action. But such laws will not be introduced and if they pass, they will not be enforced. The lawmakers are part of this corruption culture of ours.

In order to defeat corruption, you need to have the right people in the right place. The battle against corruption starts in electing people who are ready to fight corruption. Will we see a change in the next election or will people decide to sell their votes and dignity to corrupt politicians?