25. budget follow up
Monday, July 2, 2007 Page 1
Civil Society in Lebanon is seeking to discover the real
cause of our “machakels”. All the time, the answer stares
them in the face. It is the failure of our political leaders
and our elected representatives to manage effectively our
So why don’t we get together and appoint an emergency
public safety committee of nine members from the
loyalists, the opposition and the independents to redefine
the fiscal and the economic policy of this country?
Once a solution to our fiscal and our economic problems
is found, it will be easier to agree upon the legal and the
constitutional issues. The European Union started in this
way in 1956, so why can’t we?
Holding interminable conferences on metaphysical
subjects not directly related to our daily problems,
accusing the confessional system of being responsible
for all our ills without proposing any logical alternative,
setting obscure goals such as “transparency” and “good
governance” without recommending how to attain them,
coming up with ill prepared initiatives without prior
agendas, squandering precious resources on organizing
training courses or missions, at home or abroad, on
projects that may be fine in the West but have little chance
of success in our country, skimming over the economic
causes of our political debacle without identifying the real
culprit and without defining the sickness and
recommending the remedy, these are some examples of
the futile and sometimes costly attempts by our Civil
Society to find a solution to our “Machakels”.
The origin of the problems that our Nation faces is
simpler than one could imagine. At the same time the
ramifications of these”machakels” are so complex that
the use of imported, ready-made solutions has proved
The remedy to most of our ills stares us right in the face.
Still we go on ignoring it and we refuse to take the only
course that may lead us to recover, not only our national
identity and our economic stability, but also and above all,
our “sense of belonging” and a strong “raison de vivre”.
Let me explain. Lebanon is a country of four and a half
million inhabitants whose government currently collects,
on average, seven thousand billion Lebanese pounds in
revenue per year and spends twelve thousand billion
(see MOF report for the year 2006). This situation has
earned our country the dubious honor of being the most
indebted Nation in the world. Furthermore, the population,
sensing that it is offered no valid program to counter this
ballooning deficit, has lost hope in all their political
leaders, opposition and loyalists alike.
Rushing to fill this leadership vacuum, a host of foreign
political interferences have sprung up and contribute to
create a situation of unparalleled complexity.
The solution, on the other hand, appears simple enough
if one considers the original cause of the trouble.
Under normal circumstances, this small country of
10,000 square kilometers, that used to be dubbed the
Switzerland of the Middle East, gifted with a wonderful
climate, a strategic location, an abundance of natural
resources and a smart and well educated population,
ought to have steadily grown and prospered since it
acquired independence in 1943.
Unfortunately, the reverse occurred mainly because, in
the opinion of the writer, some cardinal economic rules
given to develop and invest in the infrastructure of the
country or its core resource, tourism. The only concern of
our leaders was to maintain a relatively balanced budget.
At the end of the war and until today, for numerous
reasons that it is unnecessary to evoke now, the struggle
to rebuild the country was not accompanied by a similar
attempt to manage efficiently the National Budget
The result is what we see today, a semi bankrupt country,
a disillusioned population, helpless leaders easily
manipulated by outside forces and constantly bickering
What is the solution then, would you ask? The solution
would be for all the parties in Lebanon, loyalists,
opposition and independents, to get together and appoint
an emergency public safety committee of nine members,
three from each group, who will have no executive or
legislative powers but will be in charge of redefining the
fiscal and the economic policy of this country.
Some will object: “But how can we find some solutions to our
economic problems with the present imbroglio in our political
system? Should we not deal first with the matters of the
government of national unity or the presidential and the
legislative elections? And how can we study Budget issues
amid an atmosphere of assassinations, sit-ins, threats of
border closures, the Nahr El Bared and the Ain El Heloue
events, etc. etc.?”
We believe that all that is happening in Lebanon today is
engineered and orchestrated in order to worry us, distract us
and prevent us from tackling our problems head on. Let us
not fall into the trap that is set for us. Let us, on the contrary,
meet and talk, and get on the business of making this country
Another argument in favor of such an initiative comes to mind
when we consider the birth and the build-up of the European
Union. If the forefathers of the Common Market had decided
to tackle constitutional issues and legal abstractions first,
instead of the elemental economic issues of the time,
charcoal and steel, the European Union would have never
seen the light of day. In fact, fifty years after the Monnet
Declaration the members of the European Union are still
struggling to find some common legal denominators among
themselves, though in practice, the “machine itself” is
working quite satisfactorily. The proof is that the European
Union has not suffered a single new war during that entire
period. On the contrary, some century old conflicts, like the
Irish puzzle, have been successfully resolved.
So, why can’t the Lebanese inspire themselves from this
example and adopt the same approach to settle their
problems among themselves?
Instead of arguing interminably about the “sex of the angels”,
or who came first, the chicken or the egg, why don’t they get
on to “brass tacks” and inspect and review together their
National Budget and the way it is administered and run in
order to find ways to balance it and, at the same time, to set
the country on course toward progress and prosperity? Once
an agreement is reached on the essentials, by this I mean
the collection and the distribution of the national revenue and
the development of the national resources, the rest, the legal
and the constitutional issues, will be easier to agree upon.
We, at the Lebanese Center for Public Information, will not be
satisfied with lamenting the situation, expressing pious
wishes or proposing solutions that some would wrongly call
“far fetched”. We have already started our own investigative
approach into the National Budget and we have published
some of our findings into our web site and our blog sites (see
the references at the end of this article). We challenge our
readers to come to us and share with us their opinions and
their proposals. Let them also engage in similar research
work to discover new elements and new data on such
subjects, as the EDL, the Telecom privatization or the
reduction of our National Debt.
Let us all roll up our sleeves and get to work together to find
and propose new solutions to optimize the national revenue
and rationalize the public expenditure and come up with new
ideas to make this beloved country of ours prosper and
occupy its rightful place in the region as the leader in
democracy and progress.
To learn more about our budget balancing campaign go to
the following internet sites:
1) “What do we expect from the liberalization or the
privatization of Liban-Telecom?”
For details go to: http://www.r22telecomsurplus.blogspot.com
2) “When shall we tear down the ten-year old data iron curtain
For details go to: http://www.e18edl.blogspot.com
3) “Is there a plan to stabilize /reduce our Public Debt?”
For details go to: http://www.e4debtservice.blogspot.com
4) “Nine million square meters of real estate built in 2006 and
relatively little to show for it in terms of real estate registration
For details go to: http://wwwr8realestateregistrationfees.com
5) For Information about “Machakelna.Org” or The Lebanese
Center for Public Information, CPI :
For details go to: http://www.machakelna.org
6) For information about our budget deficit reduction
For details go to: http://balancedbudget.blogspot.com/
the Authorities and the citizens
Participative governance and budgetary control
In Lebanon what is required is a true partnership between the Authorities and the
citizens. In this page of the web site we briefly enumerate the steps that should be
taken to arrive at a coordinated partnership between the State institutions and Civil
Foremost among these steps, lie the creation of the annual Budget and the
subsequently monitoring of its implementation. It is essential that these two
undertakings should be the joint product of the combined efforts of the public and the
In a previous page we published, for comparison's sake, a detailed statement of the
Budget results for the years 2004 to 2009 as published by the Ministry of Finance.
Some immediate and preliminary conclusions can be drawn at the lecture of these
documents. The extent of the economies that can be realized in expenditure and the
prospects of additional revenue within some of these budget heads can be easily
recognized, even by an uninitiated reader.
We then proceed to include a critical report on budgetary control that we had
previously published on our blog site in July 2007. We wish to point out that a copy of
this report was transmitted, at that time, to the Ministry of Finance and to a number of
sister NGOs. Sad to say, no action was taken by the Public Authorities or by the
NGOs, or by their donors. No explanation was provided by either for ignoring these
recommendations, though we were too well aware of them.
Let us hope that, after the latest events in Lebanon and in the Region, these NGOs
and the new Public Administration in Lebanon will finally heed our calls and accept to
support the recommended public budgetary control procedures aimed at enhancing
the country’s economic prosperity and attaining some minimum levels of social
justice through enlightened cooperation between the public and the private sectors.
Let us warn everyone concerned, once more, that the alternative to such a course of
action may be chaos and disorder in our country, as is presently the case in other
parts of the Middle East.
I fear event worse troubles in Lebanon that may lead to the outbreak of a civil war far
more devastating than the previous one
The revolutions in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, Bahrain and Libya, all stem from the same
source. I mean the marginalization of the citizens.
In Lebanon we have witnessed the same absence of dialogue between the State
and the people (Al Dawle wal Chab). The latter are wrongly considered by the
politicians as immature, ignorant about matters concerned with public administration
and public finances, and incapable of forming any valid opinion about them.
Unfortunately, In that respect they may be partially right. The reason is that budgetary
control or participative governance were never taught at school, or in the universities.
They are still nowadays considered “taboo” subjects by the Education Authorities,
whether public or private. This is indeed a great shame because these young
students may be tomorrow's leaders. It could even happen earlier than tomorrow,
considering the speed at which the brush fires of the revolution are spreading over
the entire area.
Without the necessary knowledge and training, how can one expect these young
rebels to accomplish their task adequately and efficiently? We are seeing the likes of
such capacity shortages in Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen, or worse still, in Libya.
Or, is it fear of such competition that is moving our aged hereditary leaders, militia
heads, and corrupt politicians supported by the monocracy, to forbid to these young
elements the access to a basic democratic culture? Is it that they are mortally afraid
of being ultimately denounced and losing their privileges?