Lebanon: Sectarian Tensions are being exacerbated to hide an Ailing Economy and a Failed Governance

I read an interesting analysis posted at Loubnan Ya Loubnan on the state of the lebanese debt and economy and it gave me some ammunitions because I have been arguing, since the beginning of the recent escalation, that although Lebanese society is sectarian and sectarian tensions seem to be behind most of the invectives between supporters and opponents to the Sanyura government, the real tension stems from the new economic deal that was designed for lebanon by Hariri. The New Lebanese economy built after the Taif accords sponsored by Saudi Arabia, which ended the civil war in lebanon and litterally officialised the Syrian grip on the country, was not meant to profit all Lebanese but only a clique, those who were in power ever since Taif, Hariri, The Lebanese Forces, and Co. Thus, the present political confrontation will not die because there is wealth and there are privileges at stake if the present political clique were to be replaced, or at least immobilised by the opposition.

The article referenced above highlights, on the basis of figures, academic work and expert opinions (among them, Charbel Nahhas, Georges Corm and Alain Gresh), the source of the economic debt, and traces it back to Hariri days in office as well as his finance minister and present PM Sanyura. Although the civil war left lebanon in a dire economic situation, the article argues that the debt increased rapidly with the reconstruction projects that were to profit the new political elite, or former fighting militia, pacified from civil war by the promises of fresh money and a large scale theft of Lebanon's financial resources. It is this theft that is responsible for Lebanon's debt, a debt that is the burden of the Lebanese people now. In other terms, the present political elite, headed by Hariri, heavily borrowed, heavily stole money that was destined for reconstruction, and is now, not only asking Lebanese to make sacrifices to reduce the debt, but also asking them to shut up because if they protest there will be no more money and no more borrowing. This is a vicious cycle which makes me think that Lebanon is the new Banana republic on the world stage heading to a total collapse of an economy, otherwise traditionally healthy, thanks to the dishonesty and the greed of its western backed rulers.

I am not surprised to realise that the theft of government resources was in fact brought to us by the Saudi mentored government of Hariri. This practice is routine in Saudi Arabia, a country with so much wealth, concentrated within the few who are related to the ruling family, and so little development for its own people, a country where the ruling family taxes the country's revenues at the level of 40%, money that goes in the pockets of the royal family members and not in the coffers of the state. The practice of stealing the revenues of the country was not installed on a tabula rasa in matters of corruption. Lebanon was known, even before the war, for the corruption of its state apparatus but the new economic and political landscape created by Hariri, in the middle of the Syrian occupation years, were to bring theft and corruption to new highs, never reached before. I will not be surprised to see, if there will be a conclusion to the UN report on the death of Hariri, a 'business' motive for his murder which prompted a chain reaction of other assassinations, every one of them destined to cloud further the investigation into the motives of the former and to discard any possible suspicion for motives other than the one who were invented as a storyline and distributed to the press by the March 14th movement, the movement of Sanyura, Hariri, Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Forces.

In the present regional situation, armed confrontation in Lebanon is not suitable. Lebanese should then seize this opportunity to start looking at themselves and at what divides them critically and not fall into the sectarian trap. They have fallen in it in the past and it brought them 15 years of civil war, misery and hell. But resisting a civil war does not mean that we should accept the present state of things as imposed on us by the Sanyura government, we should not accept to be ruled by a dishonest minority, we should not accpet to look at war criminals mutated into statesmen dictate what we should do and think, we should not accept foreign interference, not only Syria and Iran, which are minor when compared to the interference of Sanyura's buddies, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the US in order to change things in Lebanon to their liking.

I am a Christian maronite and I grew up in a multireligious community made of Sunnis and Greek Orthodox. As during the height of the civil war, I still believe that sectarianism is never the cause of what is happening in Lebanon, in Iraq, and even in Gaza. It is only a mean to achieve something else, it is a mean to terrorise people in their own communities by silencing the voices of moderation and reason so the incompetence, corruption and the theft of our rulers go unnoticed. Every time an extremist slogan is shouted, there are ten moderate voices unheard. Extremism eventually creates a state of fear inside a community because not adhering to the rules of the community is to become unprotected, not recognised by the other community, and rejected by his own. What is happening in Lebanon, as in other corrupted governments in the ME, is that the political elite refuses to serve the country, no matter its religion or political affiliation, uses sectarianism to create a state of fear helping to rally people around them and to divert their attention from the real problems of the country and from their bad governance. The political elite in many countries in the ME, and Lebanon is no exception, sees power as a way to enrich itself at the expense of the country and its people. Lebanese illness is not sectarianism, it is feodalism, or the contempt of the ruling elite for its people. I have seen young, smart and educated people in Lebanon desperate because the country is unable to offer them jobs, let alone qualified jobs. Lebanese 'economy' after the civil war was built to suit the rich and powerful, to make of Lebanon, the whole country, a source of income for its political elite, and Lebanon became, under the Hariri rule, a whore country that offered itself to anybody (Israel, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and is now sleeping with the neocons doctrine) who is willing to help maintain the political elite in place and keep the cash flowing into its pockets while the country 's economy was left rotting and dying...This is the kind of governance the US has been praising and encouraging for years and now implementing under the Bush doctrine and at the expense of US national security and the well being of US's inhabitants drafted to wage colonial wars disguised under th banner of 'democracy and freedom'...

Can anybody show me an ounce of patriotism and good governance among the members of the Sanyura government ? These people are only good at political and sectarian agitation and rethoric destined to feed the neocon hubris. But this will not last and the neocons will be history in 2008 and Lebanon will be forgotten again...having to offer itself to a less glamorous master...

Some facts about Lebanon published the day Rafiq Hariri died:
Population: 3.7 million
Life expectancy: 72 years
GDP: $17.8bn (£9.4bn) in 2003
GDP per head: $4,800 a year
28% of Lebanese below the poverty line
Source for the above: CIA World Factbook
There are now 65 Billion dollars in Lebanese banks in private accounts and the central bank has 10 billions. 72% of private accounts reflect only 4,3% of the total volume of money deposits while 9,2% of private accounts possess 82,7% of total money deposits. In other words, there is money in Lebanon but it is not for everyone and certainly not for the state, it is only for the privileged few.

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Since March 29th 2006