Sunday, December 10, 2006

A Minor Political Economy Perspective in Lebanon

The most popular domain has been for the past three years been Political Economy. This domain focuses on the sphere where economy and politics meet. This domain explains how economy influences politics and vice versa. This domain takes into consideration not only the politics/economics of the present, but the past in relation to regional and international factors. Henceforth, you can't discuss Lebanon without taking into its consideration the economic recession, or the metamorphosis of the GATT into the WTO ultimate imperial tool by the international bourgeoisie.

The Islamic Brotherhood for example spread in Egypt and Syria during economic recessions. They grew politically due to the welfare system they established.

The current status has been as a result of the past, as well as factors of the present. For starters, the bulk of the Christian community during the Syrian mandate were in support of the Lebanese Forces and Free Patriotic Movement together due to the "exile" of one leader and imprisonment of the other. With the current split between both factions as each camp chose a reactionary camp placed them into heated debates. You would notice from two posts earlier how each Christian Camp is competing to prove to the other who is the "real Christian".

The Shiites from a political – economical perspective have been dedicated (most of them) to Hassan Nasrallah due to the welfare system he provided to the rural areas which are mostly Shiite. Furthermore, he became a powerful voice to represent their demands. Thirdly, the growth of the Shiite community, in comparison to other sects required gave the Shiites incentive to abide with Nasrallah to protect their interests which was forgotten by Lebanese governments from 1943 till 1992. They still are the least to benefit from governmental plans and budgeting.

Now the country's economy, in the post Ta'ef accord, has been shaped by al-Harriri Sr. and his crew. The transformation of Lebanon to a 100% free market oriented status reflects al-Harriri Sr.'s representation of the business elites in Lebanon (and not only the Sunni St.). The late Rafiq al-Harriri's plan is to integrate Lebanon within the World Trade Organization. His three major consultants were Riyad Salami, Fouad Seniora, and Basil Fleihan. In this perspective all policies were aimed to make Lebanon join the World Trade Organization. It is unknown how far the late Prime Minister wanted Lebanon part of the WTO as a mean to ensure Lebanon's independence from Syria, because the WTO means that Lebanon is officially within the iron grip of US imperialism. In any case, the plans took effect, and Lebanon by 1999-2001 was considered a perfect candidate to the World Trade Organization with minor adjustments, mainly related to the TRIPS agreement (which safeguards patents and intellectual copyrights).

Like all free market systems, the elite benefit from free market while the majority can burn in hell (or travel abroad). Of course, when I mean the majority, I am not referring to the definitions of the word "majority" dictated by the reactionary camps of 8th and 14th of March. Under a free market system, specially on the premises of the WTO, we have social inequalities on the increase. Samir Amin, Suzan George, Tereza Brennan, and plenty others reflected (based on UN reports and Balance of Payments reports) reflected how exactly social inequality rise. The process of the late Rafiq Harriri economic plan is to integrate Lebanon in the corporate globalization process whereby wealth would generate from the foreign investments (due to the Tax havens policies). In theory, the wealth should be so massive that the profits would spill from the upper class to the middle class and so forth. Yet, this never happened. The Middle Class which remained protected by social welfare and interventionist regulatory rules got demolished. Whether we are talking about Latin America or any country of the third world (except the Rentier States of the gulf) has witnessed the demolishment of the Middle Class.

This happened in Lebanon. The elites of the society have got richer while the masses got poorer. Whether from the taxation system or market globalization (as well as the regional competition coming from Syria and Israel), the Christian middle class got demolished. Harriri created a buffer system towards his Sunni St. based on grants and welfare processes. He also benefited his allies in the cartel system. Yet, anything economical has a political dimension. Whenever there is a clash, division of elites on ministries and privatizations takes place. The elites of the other classes benefited; however, the masses didn't. Again, these elites never worried about the masses' economical situation and the rise of unemployment because these elites are either Sect leaders or supporters of Sect leaders who benefit their businesses.

When Aoun returned from his "five stars hotel" in Paris to Lebanon, he targeted this frustration within the Christian street, while his historical rival Jaajaa remained in alliance with el-Harriri's cabinet. Aoun spoke the language which targeted the frustrations of the masses. He simply targeted that anger, and sublimated it on the 14th of March (since they refuted to give him the presidency). The elites' interests are now divided 50% - 50% in Lebanon within the government. Hezbollah would attack 14th of March economically to safeguard their weaponry.

Part of the offensive on 14th of March is due to its economic recessions. Ironically, this is a vicious circle, because no government alone can come and fix the economic recession we are living in. Lebanon's resources are too small to do the wealth spill from the elites to the proletariat. Moreover, in case there was any economic stability, domestic regional politics (whether assassinations or demonstrations) or regional instability: regional interventions from the region/international or offensive war/air strikes from Israel. Hence, even if a new government rises: elites will take the bigger share, proletariat would remain divided because of the Sectarianism, and Hezbollah would maintain their strength due to the fact the elites neglected the people of the rural areas to satisfy their never ending greed. Hezbollah didn't join the government to reflect the interests of his sect because they already sustained their welfare system. They entered the government to safe-guard their arms and prevent any political marginalization.

This is only one tiny perspective of overall picture. To be continued from different economies.

PS: take a look at Future TV and NBN TV, you would see two different demonstrations with half the accusations shared by both camps.

No War but class War


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