“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?
Israel seeks to turn gas to gold according to the AP story published today. In short Israel is setting a plan for a national investment fund that would tap an anticipated natural gas bonanza to fuel both an export-geared economy and provide a nest egg of $10 billion in under a decade for future generations. Some of the revenues would be invested in strategically critical targets such as education and health. Lebanon will use the revenue from oil excavation primarily to lower public debt according to Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Miqati. Public debt in Lebanon rose to $55 Billion Dollars in 2010. In 1992, Lebanon’s national debt was around 4382 billion Lebanese pounds (around 2.9 billion dollars). Late Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri took office and since then the debt kept Mushrooming in alarming rate. By 1997, the net public debt of the gross domestic product (GDP) have increased more than 100%. There are many reasons for such increase, they are complicated and connected. You had the Syrian regime occupying Lebanon and taking cuts from every deal done in the country. You have the development initiated by Late Prime Minister Hariri. You have corruption on every single level, …..
Developing Lebanon, I should say reconstructing downtown Beirut, and the corruption of the Lebanese political system are the one to blame for the $55 Billion Dollars deficit. If we look at what was called “development” of Lebanon, all we see is new fancy building in downtown Beirut with couple of new bridges. Lebanese still get around 4 hours of electricity per day, no water system, no infrastructure, no sewer systems, no recycling plants, ….. nothing. Just few new buildings and bridges. Oh and by the way, the new buildings are owned by a company called Solidere that was formed by Rafiq Hariri himself through a parliament decree …. oh well this is another story to talk about.
Add to all that the corruption. Or as Lebanese call it “Shatara” (cunning). If you are not “cunning” in Lebanon they call you stupid. This “cunningness” is at its top level in the Lebanese political system. You see politicians arguing on TV all day and behind the scenes they will be wheeling and dealing with each others and use their “shatara” to fill their bank accounts.
To solve our debt problem, Lebanon needs implement several solutions and modifications. The problem resides in the fact that all these modifications require political and administrative reforms that the political class could not want or not afford to operate in the present situation. Why would they change a system that is making them millionaires (some billionaires).
With gas and oil extraction, they found the solution for the debt, they will use the revenues to pay it off. For sure, they will pocket millions of these revenues. They already setup companies in order to suck all the profits to themselves.
So while Israel is setting up its future generation, Lebanon will be setting up its politicians and their families. They will be doing it twice. The first by paying a debt that they accumulated and stole part of it. the second by allowing them to rip the benefits of the revenues to their own companies.
What will the Lebanese say? He doesn’t care as long as the deputy, the minister, the za3im, the leader, …. hires his son for few hundred dollars per month.