(MFL notes: I heavily attempted to translate Dr. Fawwaz Traboulsi's article into English, and attempted to reflect the meaning of his article. The problem is that his Arabic sometimes is a bit advanced to translate into English. Those who can read Arabic, you can find it over here. This article discusses the different points of weaknesses of the Reform Paper followed by Seniora Government as well as the weak points of the opposition in reacting to it. Those who are interested in the criticism of the Reform Plan (الورقة الاصلاحية) to be sent to the Paris III (a conference to tackle the deficits of Lebanon and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) strategy to re-structure Lebanon's policies into Neo-Cons' standards, I highly recommend you read it)
In an age where “Politics” is almost full of the clashes of wills, sectarianism, and religious extremism, there is a portion of the security forces whose job is to decrease such divisions, without excluding the social and economical domain which deserve a treatment of its own. After the absolute prevalence of political arguments, and the ongoing escalating clashes between the two teams of the crisis; the government published the Paper which is to be submitted in the Paris 3 conference. It will be said that the timing and reason for the publication are political since the rule stands that everything is political in Lebanon. Yet, indeed the paper does carry a vision and methods of treating the economic social crisis, with all its political reflections, does indeed deserve some discussion. These are some notes:
· The Paper begins from the main hypothesis that dominated the reform plans of the Prime Minister Rafiq el-Harriri: the Lebanese Economy should return back to the “Golden Age” prior to the civil war, with the international trade center as its symbol located in Down Town Beirut. This hypothesis is accompanied on the insistence on linking that golden age and the outburst of the Civil War with the external wars. The explanation is clear: “This war was the “War of the Others” on Lebanon, or the “War For Others” and has no ties between Politics and Economics. If that is true, then why did the Lebanese combat each other for the “others”, as well as other embarrassing questions, henceforth, we find there are no answers for such questions.
· The Reform Paper avoids researching any reform that is related to the roots of the crisis since there is unanimous agreement that it is considered as “fateful”. The economical role allocated to Lebanon is what Lebanon itself got used to. The picture of Lebanese politics is a prostitute who got used to a spoiled life on the expense of others and she does not enjoy living and work only through intruding on them. In economic terms, the primary role of Lebanese economics is to intrude on the interests of the rising oil prices of the gulf nations, as promises rolled by.
· Mystery is the master of the role which the monetary and fiscal reforms would play in guaranteeing or contributing the creation of job opportunities. In this domain, the taxation policy does not go out of the prevailing logic: it commitment towards indirect taxes and bills rather than follow a progressive taxation system. This policy aims to increase governmental revenues (earlier: the Central Bank deposit team used to earn a lot from customs taxes but had to decrease it; actually demolish a lot of it prior the grace period provided by the World Trade Organization) without any interest in encouraging the equality of chances and the social redistribution of revenues in a more just manner between the regions and the social categories. The paper for example discusses that the poorest areas in Lebanon are the rural areas and the suburbs of the cities without proposing any project for social and regional development.
· Creating job opportunities: The project is without numbers or goals and stands on the assumption that the greater part of the youth within the labor market annually are already forged to be exported outside, among them are the graduates.
· The paper handles the problem of combating corruption and wasted cash flows through rejecting it with more mysterious Neo-Liberal vocabulary such as transparency and accountability without touching in essence the core problem which is known since the days of Independence, of job distribution between te Party of the Bankers/Importers and the Political crew. The former work on building a quarterly based service-oriented economy which does not produce sufficient job opportunities, the latter buy the political allegiance by employing their own people in the public sector… as for the excessive workers entering the labor market, they have choices of either immigrating or desperation of destiny… As for the administrational team, excluding the corruption and more corruption after the warlords joined the reigning political crew, the challenge is thrown at the government and the opposition’s faces together to block the logic of distribution of work in such a manner.
· The paper also covers promises of achieving safety nets according to Neo-Liberal designs. It is important first if it is applicable, excluding the fact it is rarely tackling the basis of problems. This is the way preferred on privatizing electricity, and increasing taxes on the consumption of combustibles, rather handling the issue of the Mafia of combustibles’ control on the sources of importation of combustibles and its prices. There are already promises about stopping the increase of prices, away from handling monopoly or applying politically a monitoring board of prices.
If only the reform paper will call upon such observations and its sort; however, it played a role in revealing the disappearance of the economical alternatives of the opposition, which should give an idea on a quality supplement which the opposition would provide to solve the increasing issues of the nation when it joins the awaited National Unity Government (MFL notes: being sarcastic over here)
The Opposition replied with varieties of the “Politics First” symphony: The priority goes to political reform first or no economical reform without “our participation” in the decision making. As for the external role in financing the reform plan, Hezbollah was meticulous in replying: Yes to external money but do not expect declinations… and over here meant declinations to the “American Plan”. This is before the “remarkable” voices which repeated from the days of the “Syrian Mandate” its symphony on Debt and how it is a conspiracy to for giving the Palestinians a permanent residence in Lebanon in return of deleting the debts of Lebanon. I do not understand the meaning of refuting the permanent “nationalization” of the Palestinians in this manner except as an invitation for displacement. This symphony on this note met – which is still sensitive amidst the Christian audience, or that what the orchestra believes- the President of the Republic and the Irslanian Prince, who God blessed us with from ancestral victories in combating this nationalization. (MFL: Author is Sarcastic again). The most interesting quality for the official positions of the opposition is the growing contradiction between the notes that criticized the reform paper and the earlier political attitude mentioned in relations to the economical speech given by the different sections of the opposition.
The demonstration which was organized by the General Trade Union and had a weak presence of participants, is only a result of the reaction of the opposition. This demonstration revealed the reality of the Union (as it ended during a whole decade of subjugation and dismantlement by the hands of the Syrian Security machinery and certain Lebanese Parties) even though such an operation began to protect Prime Minister Rafiq el-Harriri’s construction project from reactions coming from social and activist movements. Eventually it became a political a political purpose on its own. It ended with terminating the General Labor Union, which is in a relative independent syndicate position from the authority and cross-sectarian). It was transformed into an empty noisy organism whereby a couple of hundreds of syndicates (who lack any considerable representative to be mentioned, became under siege or arrested by parts of the ruling authority or the parties whose allegiance is still for the Syrian Mandate). Even Hezbollah who was never too occupied in their battle for liberation to pour his bucket in the process of emptying the syndicates and Unions.
This is the situation which hosts the majority of the Lebanese in their quest for work and bread and minimum standards for living according to Human standards. They missed the political holidays just as they missed the economical holidays. The popular proverb applies on them: “Not in Damascus our holidays, nor in Dommar our holiday followed us.” Without a Meaning! (MFL notes: Without a Meaning in Lebanon is used in Arabic in a sarcastic tone which implies several subliminal meanings).