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The Management of Public Interest in Lebanon, a Broken Concept

Dr. Karim El Mufti

Researcher in Political Science and Public Policy

Beirut, 21 September 2011

After the end of the civil war, the 1990’s were dedicated to rebuild and reconstruct torn and shattered Lebanon. The Lebanese State and its Public Service could resume its original purpose: managing all affairs related to public interest and drawing the needed public policies to meet the after-war challenges and modernize the country.

This paper offers an analysis of public action as undertaken by the Lebanese authorities since the end of the war and its evolution over 20 years of public management[1] and how it was maintained in a state of unfinished edification.


Despite the 15 years of conflict, it is important to note that the Lebanese bureaucracy was able to survive the implosion of the political institutions of the State[2], not without damaging consequences: “Although the bureaucracy has survived despite considerable damage and lasting scars, it has succumbed further to economic corruption, favouritism and political intervention in the face of the pressures generated by the intensity of the conflict[3].

With the reproduction of the particular Lebanese state model in the aftermath of the war, shaped by the Taëf Accord and ruled by the sacred power sharing system and sectarian representation at all levels, political and administrative, the “public civilization[4] could not overcome its multiple flaws. The latter were perpetuated through political intervention, clientelism and neo-patrimonial practices, rendering difficult any form of consolidation in order for it to meet the technocratic needs of the political class in charge at that time of the reconstruction. As enounced by Thierry Pfister, “Public Service is the legitimate regulator of the stretched clock of the nation, thanks to its cumulated memory, its long-term perspective and its competence in the preparation and execution of decisions[5]. Because of the war, the Lebanese bureaucracy had already been diminished in its resources and capacities; a survey conducted by Maroun Kisirwani during the civil war stressed on how the conflict “reduced civil service professionalism”, kept the civil servants unsupervised, led to the “decrease of coordination among administrative units” and an overall the “dislocation of offices and work force[6].

Led by successful businessman Rafic Hariri, despite a very fragmented and uneasy political spectrum, the reconstruction of the Lebanese economy was set as highest of priorities, along with attending to the destroyed urban tissue, the rehabilitation of the infrastructure, the electricity and telephone networks and water access. Hariri’s administration managed to hastily lower the inflation, stabilize the Lebanese currency and steady consumer prices[7]. However, the consolidation of the public administration did not make it to the top list of items to invest in during the immediate after-war. In the eyes of the political class, “the bureaucracy ha[d] lost much of its ability to function on a national basis[8] and the way the new authorities chose to deal with the weakened public administration was to enforce disciplinary measures in order to, quoting Prime Minister Rafic Hariri, “eliminate its elements of corruption”. This led in 1993 to a vast anti-corruption campaign (the only one in the past 20 years) during which 5.000 cases of suspected corrupted civil servants were initially identified and a course of eviction from office was officially initiated. After the number decreased to about 500 cases, these measures were ultimately abrogated by the State Council claiming “power abuse[9], uncovering the clumsiness and unpreparedness of the authorities in dealing with the legal issues of this process. Moreover, seeking refuge against eventual future attempts of expurgation, the rest of the civil servants community developed closer ties with influential political factions, thus perpetuating the politicization of the public administration, with the salient consequences we continue to observe today.

It’s at a later stage that the authorities came to understand the importance of bureaucracy to efficiently carry out reforms and execute nationwide public policies: it wasn’t until 1996 that the government created a Ministry of State dedicated to manage the modernization process of public administration, the OMSAR (Office of the Minister of State for Administration Reform). Yet, the measure came as a bureaucratic response (the creation of an additional public department) instead of placing this type of public action at the heart of each one of the political institutions which would have symbolized a stronger political will for upgrading the public administration to an efficient working level.

Instead, looking at the way reconstruction was carried out, the reform wagons starting the year of 1991 did not include the public administration, neither as an instrument nor as an object of reconstruction.

1/ The Marginalization of the Lebanese Public Administration in the Reconstruction Process

One of the factors explaining the chronic marginalization of public administration in the reconstruction process relates to Rafic Hariri (and his associates)’s liberal vision of Minimum State theories. The dominating pattern was to marginalize the official public service and do without its burdening public administration which was considered too complex to reform and develop. Because of its politically sectarian structure[10], its high level of corruption[11] and its lack of resources, the reconstruction process bypassed the essential part of the public service. As a result, underpaid civil servants developed tangled corruption networks and systems, as they grew stronger political clientelistic networks, leading to an inextricable situation where administrative reform has become harder than ever, as illustrated by the decline of OMSAR’s range of action in the recent years.

Furthermore, a very large majority of the political class connected to the World Bank, the IMF and the UNDP’s objectives favoring the reduction of the size and costs of public administration. Hence, to “reduce the size and cost of the public administration” became a shared goal between the government and the UNDP in Lebanon[12], without giving sufficient attention to rehabilitate and strengthen the supervising bodies of the public service.

The political decision to bypass the public administration back in the 1990’s was implemented using mainly three tools.

Firstly, handpicked existing bureaucracies were upgraded, i.e. strengthened with special prerogatives, like for instance the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR). Created in 1977 to deal with the devastation caused by the first two years of the civil conflict, its mandate was amended[13] making the CDR the lead public institution over the planning of the reconstruction process. Consequently, it was the CDR that represented the Government in June 1991 during the launching of what was called the 'Recovery Planning for the Reconstruction and Development of Lebanon'. At that time, an agreement was passed between the CDR and private bodies, among which the Hariri Foundation, International Bechtel Incorporated and Dar Al-Handasah Consultants. The last two institutions drafted a plan labeled “Horizon 2000 for Reconstruction and Development”, its overall goals being to maximize economic growth and increase social cohesion. It was hence Bechtel, one of the leading engineering international companies that designed a recovery strategy plan putting forward the main policy areas such as the development of tourism, agriculture, productive industries and higher education. As noted by Maroun Kisirwani, “a pivotal role in preparing the plan Horizon 2000 for the Reconstruction and Development of Lebanon was entrusted to the CDR [which] finalised and subnutted [it] to the Council of Ministers in February 1993 with a total cost of US$10,995 million[14].

Hence, the CDR was upgraded and strengthened in order to support the vision Rafic Hariri had for after-war Beirut and do away with any possible obstacle coming from the public administration: “To turn the scale model of ‘his’ Beirut into reality, Hariri faced huge obstacles. But he was determined to overcome these burdens and find or – if necessary – create the tools he needs to succeed. For example, in 1992, after Hariri had become Prime Minister, the CDR saw its legal powers considerably enhanced and it was placed under the authority of the Council of Ministers while a business partner of Hariri was named at the head of CDR. As such, the CDR became a powerful agency in an emerging shadow administration gradually set up by Hariri in order to circumvent red tape and through which the premier could have a substantial impact on reconstruction policy[15].

A second measure was implemented in order to sidestep what was considered an inefficient and unreliable public administration, which is the establishment of an administration within the administration, with the creation of new categories of better paid contractual experts and consultants (Lebanese and foreigners) that were integrated to the organization charts of the public administration, along the initial civil servants: in order to be able to go around both the archaic legal framework governing the recruitment process[16] and the ridiculously low pay scales of the public sector[17], the authorities allowed the recruitment of officers and experts from outside the public service cadre, while leaving the selection process to the original donor (UNDP or the Westminster Foundation for the Parliament). This better paid and well educated workforce was integrated in key institutions of the public sector, such as the Presidency of the Council of the Ministers, the Parliament, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Economy and Trade, OMSAR, etc., in order to accomplish the tasks usually rendered by the traditional bureaucracy in terms of planning, researching, supervising, executing and implementing measures and projects of public nature. As an example, let us remind that the successful VAT department created within the Finance Ministry, and its modern training institute, were based on the expertise of foreign and Lebanese consultants from outside the initial public administration[18].

A third path was set that ultimately sealed the strategy of phasing out the public administration in the post-war reconstruction efforts: outsourcing many aspects of public management directly to the private sector, moreover paving the way towards privatizing public space. The main manifestation of this concept lies of course in the well known SOLIDERE project, a private firm (SOciété LIbanaise pour le DEveloppement et la REconstruction du centre-ville de Beyrouth) created to rehabilitate the urban tissue of the shattered downtown neighborhood of Beirut (Beirut Central District, BCD). As explained by Nabil Beyhum, this company “would simply take over 130 hectares in the city center, thus establishing the biggest instrument of urban management in Lebanon and perhaps the Middle East[19], and took on to itself to rebuild and restore the traditional Beirut city center by giving the initial owners shares within the company (called A-shares, whereas B-shares were destined to the broader public).

The status of the company as a recognized agent for postwar reconstruction was formalized by law, the same that gave additional powers to the CDR. Hence, Decree numb. 1273 of 7 December 1991[20] set the object of “the company” [Solidere] to be “the planning (Aménagement) and reconstruction of one or more of the areas damaged during the hostilities in Lebanon in accordance with a Master Plan and Guiding Layout duly approved and the carrying out of the works necessary for the achievement of this object. The company's object shall include, the development and reconstruction of the area in accordance with the approved Master Plan and Guiding Layout, the sale of the developed lots, the erection of buildings thereon and the sale or lease of such buildings[21].

In that, the government awarded Solidere, a group influenced by Rafic Hariri himself[22], all needed powers to handle the owners and impose a certain concept of public management without setting any appeal procedure or alternative system, which generated much criticism at the time. As pointed out by Nabil Beyhum, “the rightful claimants presented three reasons why they opposed the plan: the project forced them to associate with third parties; it was unconstitutional because it deprived them of their private property, transferring it to a private real estate company; and there was no proof that they were unable to pay or borrow money for the reconstruction of the old city[23].

The fact that the head of the executive body in Lebanon, and many other politicians constituted heavyweight partners in the Solidere project, created a conflict of interest and the collusion of both public and private spaces. For instance, the government exempted Solidere from income tax for a period of ten years from the date of its formation; its shares and shareholders shall be exempted in this capacity[24] ; and decided that the multimillion dollar real estate company shall “be reimbursed for all or part of the cost of works provided for in the two preceding clauses 3 and 4 of this Article[25], i.e. “infrastructure works, such as the water system, electricity, sewage and drainage systems, roads, sidewalks, lightning poles, garages, telecommunications network and all other public facilities and installations in the area concerned[26].

In charge of executing the Master Plan of the rehabilitation of the greater district of Downtown Beirut on behalf of the Lebanese authorities, Solidere continued throughout the 1990’s and the 2000’s to restore the agreed upon area which expanded to include surroundings the company regularly acquired as part of its corporate expansion strategy[27].

Thus, this model took the traditional privatization techniques (which can constitute if well implemented an efficient auxiliary to public action) a step further by delegating entire areas and properties to a specially created firm for this purpose. Many sectors were indeed subjected to a form of privatization in a successful manner, the process being monitored by the newly created Higher Council for Privatization (in 2001), like the motor vehicle inspection which was handed to a private firm and has become efficient ever since[28], or the postal service which was also given out to a private corporation, and came to handle additional administrative procedures for the general public as a private intermediary in exchange of a service charge.

Coming back to the notion of the privatization of public space, the reconstruction of downtown Beirut was a success through an innovative and effective project. However, this model for postwar reconstruction forfeited any reshuffling of the ruined public space by delegating core aspects of it to the private sector. Since the launch of the reconstruction process, public action confirmed a mindset regarding public service as an idea to be neglected, shrinking the notion of public interest to an imperceptible level.

2/ Mismanaged Public Interest

These three instruments we have just covered disregarding the core dimension of the notion of public interest became a rule rather than the exception, hence pinning down a particular concept of public management in which the State decided, in all its sovereignty, to abandon its prerogatives to revive, manage, regulate, defend and arbitrate all matters related to public interest.

Did this applied model, using privatized tools of public management, successfully rebuild the Lebanese economy and modernize durably the country? How efficient was it in regards to a fair and effective management of the Lebanese public interest? Looking at the basic services and the overall infrastructure the Lebanese State was able to provide in the last 20 years, the answer is not very shining, as we observe how the public interest concept had to be sacrificed. Elites who had the harsh duty of reconciling the war-traumatized population with the notion of general interest turned it down and preferred to concentrate on generating additional individual power and influence through state institutions and services provided, depending on the ministries and administrations handled.

As a result, the Lebanese public still does not have access to a 24 hours supply of electricity, or to broadband internet[29], or to a modern mobile network (knowing that Lebanon was the first Arab country to introduce mobile technology back in 1994, and it ranks today at the bottom row of the Arab world as far as mobile advancement is concerned due to lack of modernization and poor management of the mobile licenses leased to the private sector). Lebanon is burdened with a huge public debt reaching 52.5 billion $ (180% of the GDP)[30], because of generous deals struck between a liberal government and associate banks to secure high-interest loans for the Treasury back at the beginning of the reconstruction process. In the meantime, a large part of the population cannot access basic health services because hospitals often refuse uninsured patients covered only by the National Social Security Funds, as the latter will go bankrupt before the postwar generation would reach the age to benefit from its pension system. 

Also, post-war generations are prevented from opening innovative businesses because of the archaic entrepreneurship framework in the country. The system of exclusive importing licenses stands as one of the non liberal policies in Lebanon, which distorts the internal market, thus contributing in the welfare of a semi-rentier under-taxed category of small and large traders, along with businessmen benefiting from public contracts and leases through clientelistic, clanic and sectarian connections with the officials in power. Except for the booming franchising system and the well established touristic sector, little has been done to modernize other potential niches or both the agricultural and industrial sectors in the country. Last but not least, the environment issue remains at the bottom of the policy priorities. The management of solid waste costs 150 million dollars a year of public money[31] used to pay a private firm to collect and treat the garbage solely in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, only two out of the five Lebanese governorates. Moreover, no facility for waste treatment or recycling complexes appears among the policymakers’ agenda, despite a well-known history regarding the disastrous management of uncontrolled waste disposal sites such as the ones in Borj Hammoud or Saida.

The cas d’école of this model of privatizing public space led to a philosophy of governance based on the erection of sanctuaries for the few, which has established an infrastructure allowing a clear-cut separation of the wealthy from the rest of the population without designing and introducing some type of sophisticated form of civic solidarity. Public sphere constitutes “an idea based on an ideal of a common element, an element shared by all citizens and enforced by law[32], which would involve necessary concessions from private entities in favor of ensuring a harmonious coexistence within a given society, under the protection of political institutions. Parallel to the unanimous political slogans withstanding the return to legality, i.e. to the State in the aftermath of the civil war, the debate over the Lebanese representation of public space was completely absent, knowing that the cleavage between the spheres of home and street that had emerged during the war, i.e. the primary location for safety against the space controlled by militias and violence, had shaped a new mental scheme for the next generation of Lebanese.

This fragmentation of space[33] was ignored by Lebanese politicians in the last 20 years, which further crippled any public action towards the rehabilitation of the public sphere. Consequently, growing restriction of access of the average Lebanese from public areas has become a rooted mindset: Horsh Beirut (or the Pines of Beirut), the largest green area of Beirut is closed; the Golf Club in Ouzai (South of Beirut) is a select club established on a public lot rented by State holders to a private holding for 1.100 Lebanese Pounds a year[34] ; marinas and beaches have become private and closed territories that require a membership or a high fee access. Even traditional cafés representing the heartbeat of the Lebanese intellectual scene (Modca Cafe or Café de Paris)[35] have disappeared[36]. More importantly, the galloping real estate speculation, ignored by the public authorities (among whom many large land and real estate owners and businessmen), has pushed average Lebanese away from the capital Beirut where renting and buying prices reached unprecedented peaks in a decade. And there is still no comprehensive vision among Lebanese policymakers to create new transportation means for the newly formed families having to establish themselves in Beirut’s close and further suburbs in order to facilitate their access to their workplace in the capital[37] which continues to concentrate an astronomic portion of the overall economic activity.

Here probably lies one of the most irresponsible policies, confirming the political unwillingness to recreate a public space for the Lebanese society, and which can be illustrated by studying the case of the sacrificed sector of public transport in Lebanon.

3/ A Case Study: Sacrificed Public Transport

Since the dismantlement of the tramway system in Beirut in the 1960’s, all the way through the destroyed railway infrastructure and the halt of the national bus transportation system as a result of the civil war, the official policies advantaged the overall and massive use of cars and automobiles. Twenty years later, there is still no tramway, bus, ferry or any kind of substantial public transportation system in Lebanon, except for the privately owned taxis (services) and minivans, and still no nutshell of a vision towards a more comprehensive approach to public transport in the country: “in Lebanon, transportation is regulated and organized by at least five ministries, and three other non-ministerial entities not including the Parliament, the President or individual municipalities. Where agencies do not communicate there is not only little opportunity for the development of a single comprehensive regulatory and planning structure for solving transportation problems, but solutions that extend beyond transportation may never be identified and evaluated[38].

Talking about the electrical trolley (tramway), Angus Gavin, head of urban planning for Solidere had stated that “these historical transportation uses are undesirable and incompatible with the new vision of the downtown[39], a typical view that summarizes the mindset of public and private officials regarding alternative transportation means. At a time where modern cities like Istanbul, Rabat and Beijing have given a new life to the use of tramways within densely urban areas, Beirut’s transportation system remains underdeveloped (the same goes subsequently for potentially greater economic development) because of the lack of vision of its policymakers on this issue. Other than the CDR plan of 1995 envisioning a (costly and incoherent) subway system in Greater Beirut, public transportation projects and initiatives from the public sphere remain inexistent, at a time when “a transportation system built on the automobile is expensive and inefficient. In terms of capacity per lane, single passenger vehicles have the lowest efficiency of all modes. Public transportation is a great way to improve transportation efficiency[40].

Even when observing the measures taken to secure and regulate the automobile transportation sector in Lebanon, one can confidently point out the absence of coherence and care for public safety: the inconsistent use of cement blocks, little and unsynchronized traffic lights, poor lane marking and road signs, the nonexistence of long term planning and lack of enforcement by police forces, all lead to an incredibly high number of deaths and injuries due to car and truck accidents every year[41].

One of the factors explaining the great attachment of Lebanese public officials to the use of privately-owned cars and automobiles can be found by analyzing the State Budget, as automobile-related taxes generate considerable revenue for a considerably indebted Treasury. When adding up all public revenue items related to the car industry in Lebanon[42], it shoots up to reach the third largest revenue generating item with 1,398 billion $ for 2010 (hence higher than the telecom revenues attracting around 900 million dollars to the Treasury per year), with a slight increase from 2009 with 1,385 billion $[43]. Given the void in researching any fiscal alternative, it is difficult for the present public officials, who have been opposing any fiscal reform, to adopt a radically different policy orientation which would consequently decrease the ownership and use of cars in Lebanon.

Knowing that the first two "revenues" items for the State constitute resorting to debt (either through Treasury Bonds emissions, or access to regional and foreign loans and grants)[44], followed in second position by the VAT (2,13 billion $ for 2010)[45], which is known to be an unfair but necessary consumption tax, public officials have not yet generated the needed political will to diversify the revenues for the State in order to ensure sovereignty, independence and a more just fiscal system that would sensibly reach higher revenues, rentier sectors and polluting industries. By failing to address public finance reform, public officials disregarded a crucial instrument for managing public interest and ensuring state resources to plan and execute public policies. This is why the current model of management of public interest relies on financing public projects and programs through private donations and international organizations, hence leading to a hybrid public management model which focuses on privatizing the very notion of public space.

4/ Harirism vs Aounism, or the perpetuation of the lost notion of public interest.

Up until today, Lebanon’s public service could not reach a level capable of designing and implementing complex, sophisticated and interconnected public networks and programs handling specific sectors of public interest. As a consequence, the State could not enter the “Organizers’ Era [L’Ere des Organisateurs] as conceptualized by James Burnham[46], providing highly qualified expertise indispensable to a sound public management of state affairs.

Post-war political leaders, themselves actors at various levels in the conflict, could not produce the needed mindset shift into a political enterprise destined to reshape the notion of public interest and set a infrastructure that would wisely balance both private and public areas. The Era of Harirism that started in 1992 and then witnessed the creation of the Future Movement that was inherited by the son of late Rafic Hariri[47], Saad Hariri, and belongs to what is known today as the 14 March coalition, perpetuated the collusion between private and public interests. The State kept delegating prerogatives to close partners from the private sector, privileging the profits of oligarch-type groups and clans, without putting the necessary effort in durably modernizing the country and caring for its population. The Solidere example is one of many illustrations, where political effort and persuasion was massively invested in favor of Beirut’s Downtown (and investors close to the Hariri clan) without similar actions being successfully undertaken in other parts of the country.

Political rivals to the 14 March group, the 8 March coalition, mainly gathering heavily armed Hezbollah, the Amal Movement of Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri and General Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement, hold a different position on public management. Hezbollah and Amal have been opposing Hariri’s liberal choices in the last decade, as their representatives in Parliament and in the Cabinet (where the opposition was always present through power sharing agreements) worked with former head of state, General Emile Lahoud (1998-2007) to counter Hariri’s policies. As for General Aoun, his return to Lebanon in May 2005 revived the FPM party, which later stroke a strong alliance with Hariri’s traditional rivals and positioned himself as a partisan of public management reform.

Since July 2011, the 8 March coalition took over the key positions of the State, in particular the government[48] headed by Prime Minister Najib Mikati (a pro-8 March successful businessman, though close to Hariri’s liberal mindset), when alliance shifts weakened the 14 march coalition and ousted Prime Minister Saad Hariri from power after the Parliament - an unprecedented action - withdrew its confidence from the Cabinet in January 2011.

Nonetheless, despite a few measures adopted by the new government lowering some costs in the telecommunications sector and promises made in the direction of “improving the Lebanese general welfare[49], the 8 March forces have yet to approach the Lebanese public with an alternative comprehensive vision towards reviving the notion of public interest. On the contrary, public service continues to be an object of competition for control and power, as depicted in many situations. For instance, the incident in May 2011 between pro-8 March Minister Charbel Nahas of the Telecommunications and the Internal Security Forces (whose director is loyal to 14 March forces) as to who would get his hands on telecommunications equipment related to a third cellular network stored in the ministry’s building, showed in broad daylight the intense competition for state resources as carried out between the rival factions while holding official positions[50].

Within the 8 March group, the strategy of the Amal Movement vis-à-vis state public policies remains (since the 1990’s) to maintain the capacity of placing party members and loyalists within State institutions to increase influence and control of its leader Nabih Berri. As for Hezbollah, too preoccupied protecting and defending the notion of Resistance against Israel, its MPs and ministers did not leave trace of a durable sustainable public action so far, preferring to give the higher hand on reform and change[51] to its other ally within the 8 March coalition, the FPM of General Michel Aoun. However, the public record of FPM’s main figures could not rise above the level of populist moves and measures intended to strike points with an uninformed public opinion for electoral purposes, as projects and intended reforms lack the basic elements of planning, supervising and evaluation techniques. For instance, when FPM Minister of Power and Hydraulic Resources Gebran Bassil contemplated the idea to import cars that would work on propane gas, there was no focus or preparatory work on the needed infrastructure such a reform would require on the ground.

Up until today, the figures of 8 March offer no global initiative regarding the revision of fiscal policies, public transport, public health, upholding the advantages of a greener economy, introducing an auto-entrepreneurship legislation or modernizing vital infrastructures, as they continue to authorize costly public works for tunnels and bridges financed by international donors. Lately, in September 2011, a project destined to reform the electricity sector, aimed at increasing the power production and the capacity of distribution in Lebanon, was passed by the new government and now awaits its adoption by the Parliament. The fact that pro-8 March policymakers refuse any type of controlling body (to supervise how 1.2 billion $ will be spent by the Ministry of Power and Hydraulic Resources) confirms how it has become common for the Lebanese political landscape to reject any form of transparency and accountability in governance affairs. Additionally, the new government faces the challenge of managing newly uncovered public assets: the gas reserves within the Lebanese maritime borders. Director of the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Sami Atallah, recently turned the policymakers’ attention towards the necessity to “translate gas revenues into self-sustaining growth accompanied by improvements to socioeconomic welfare[52], keeping in mind that “the road to effective management is mired with difficulties that could easily overwhelm the Lebanese government[53].


If the philosophy of Harirism is stained by the crying conflict of interest between public and private spheres, the conception of public interest as carried by the Aounist ideology is burdened with a populist notion of public management. Change in power has yet to produce changes in the way to approach public administration as both an instrument and an object of reform to support any sustainable political enterprise. Nine months after it decided to shape its own controlled Cabinet, the 8 March coalition shows many gaps in its vision of public management which has not yet matured to shape an alternative spirit vis-à-vis public management. In order to achieve the vast legislative renovation needed, Lebanese politicians are still to acquire the leadership capacity to finally prepare the Lebanese public to accept and respect a Rule of Law that would fairly protect the citizens’ genuine public space.

As such, no formation within the current political spectrum holds a coherent vision for a sane governance of a 21st Century Lebanon ; the notion of public management remains a broken concept, cursed at the margins of political reality./.

[1] On the notion of public management, read GIBERT, Patrick. Politiques et management public, L’Harmattan, Paris, 1996.

[2] KISIRWANI, Maroun. The Lebanese Bureaucracy under stress. How did it survive? Beirut Review, n°4, Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Autumn 1992.

[3] KISIRWANI, Maroun. The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Lebanon. In WHITE, Paul J., LOGAN, William S., Remaking the Middle East, Berg, Oxford New York, 1997, available on

[4] Expression borrowed from OLIVENNES, Denis, BAVEREZ, Nicolas. L’impuissance publique, Calmann-Lévy, Paris, 1989.

[5] PFISTER, Thierry. La République des Fonctionnaires, Albin Michel, Paris, 1988.

[6] KISIRWANI, Maroun, PARLE, William M., Assessing the Impact of the Post Civil War Period on the Lebanese Bureaucracy: A View from Inside. Journal of Asian and African Studies, vol. 22, n°1-2, 1987, available on

[7] On the successes of Rafic Hariri in economic recovery, cf. STEWART, Dona J. Economic Recovery and Reconstruction in Postwar Beirut. Geographical Review, Vol. 86, N°4, Oct. 1996, p. 498.

[8] KISIRWANI, Maroun, PARLE, William M., Assessing the Impact of the Post Civil War Period on the Lebanese Bureaucracy, op. cit.

[9] For more details, cf. EL MUFTI, Karim. Place et rôle des Hauts Fonctionnaires dans la machine-Etat au Liban, Mémoire de DEA, Université Saint-Joseph, 2003, pp. 23-24.

[10] A major cause preventing the filling of what is estimated at 10.000 vacancies within the different sectors of the Lebanese public administration. Source: OMSAR, Strategy for the Reform and Development of Public Administration, 2001.

[11] According to the Lebanese Transparency Association, Lebanon received a score of three out of ten (ten being the cleanest) and ranked at the position of 78 among the 133 ranked countries in 2003. See also LTA paper: Reconstructing Survey, The Political Economy of Corruption in Post-War Lebanon, 2007.

[12] See the Public Reform Sector section on the UNDP website:

[13] By Decree n°1273 aiming at the amendment of certain provisions of Law Decree n°5 of 1977, promulgated on 7 December 1991.

[14] KISIRWANI, Maroun. The Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Lebanon. In WHITE, Paul J., LOGAN, William S., Remaking the Middle East, Berg, Oxford New York, 1997, available on

[15] VLOEBERGHS, Ward. The Genesis of a Mosque: Negotiating Sacred Space in Downtown Beirut, European University Institute Working Papers, RCAS 2008/17, p. 7.

[16] The Legislative Decree No. 112/59 (Public Sector Staff Regulations), from 1959 continues to regulates conditions of employment of persons in the public sector.

[17] The highest grade within the Lebanese public administration, the first grade category, is paid roughly 3,000,000 Lebanese Pounds (2.000$) per month.

[18] The head of the newly established VAT department in 2001 was M. Chawqi Hamad, a Lebanese-Canadian specially recruited for this position ; he was advised by the former director of VAT department in Belgium, M. Willie Dierick.

[19] BEYHUM, Nabil. The Crisis of Urban Culture: The Three Reconstruction Plans for Beirut. The Beirut Review, n°4, Fall 1992.

[20] According to Law 117/1991.

[21] Article 3-I of Decree 1273 of 1991.

[22] As explained by Ward Vloeberghs : “Even though he officially owned less than a tenth of the shares, it was evident that Hariri, who would continue to make of Solidere his hobbyhorse during the following years, now held a particularly strong position among the investors”. In VLOEBERGHS, Ward. The Genesis of a Mosque, op. cit, p. 8.

[23] BEYHUM, Nabil. The Crisis of Urban Culture, op. cit. For Solidere’s presentation of the project, cf. GAVIN, Angus, MALUF, Ramez. Beirut Reborn: The Restoration and Development of the Beirut Central District, London, Academy Editions, 1996.

[24] Article 3-VII(3) of Decree 1273 of 1991.

[25] Article 3-VII(5) of Decree 1273 of 1991.

[26] Idem

[27] Solidere’s real estate ownership in Beirut expanded from initially 1.8 million square meters of properties to approximately 3 million square meters it has acquired, today allotted into 395 projects. Source: Le Commerce du Levant, September 2011. Solidere also expanded its investments abroad, namely in the United Arab Emirates where it invests and acts as a regular real estate firm.

[28] However, no concrete evaluation was undertaken in order to determine why the primary objective of this policy (taking old, dangerous, malfunctioning, and polluting cars off the streets) was not achieved.

[29] At the end of 2010, Lebanon ranked number 100 worldwide out of 222 countries in terms of internet broadband public access, according to the International Telecommunication Union of the United Nations, source: Le Commerce du Levant, September 2011.

[30] National Debt witnessed an astronomical rise since 1992: from 2 billion $ in 1992, 15 billion $ in 1998 and 38 billion $ in 2004, source: Ministry of Finance datasheets,

[31] Figure for 2007, source: The Monthly, Information International publication, issue 68, April 2008.

[32] DAHLGREN, Peter, RELIEU, Marc. L'espace public et l'internet. Structure, espace et communication. Réseaux, 2000, volume 18, n°100, pp. 163-164, available on For a further analysis on the notion of public sphere, read VAN DAMME, Stéphane. Farewell Habermas ? Deux décennies d’études sur l’espace public. Les Dossiers du Grihl, June 2007, available on

[33] Read BARAKAT L., CHAMUSSY H., Les espaces publics à Beyrouth, Géocarrefour, vol. 77, n° 3, 2002.

[34] Which corresponds to less than a dollar a year, based on a contract with the State back in 1964. This contract initially planned that the land was to be used for a “public service” by the renting company. Even though the agreement was constantly renewed by the successive governments, the rent was never revised up until this day. Cf. An Nahar, 6 April 2011.

[35] “Modca cafe to serve its last coffee after 32 years on Hamra Street”, The Daily Star, 28 February 2003.

[36] The history of Beirut Cafes is studied by Lebanese anthropologist, Dr. Chawqi Douaihy who approached the notion of public space through Beirut cafes, cf. مقاهي بيروت الشعبية: 1950-1990، دار الهنار، 2005 [Cafes for the Masses in Beirut: 1900-1950, Dar An Nahar, 2005].

[37] It can take up to one hour and a half to reach one’s workplace from a close suburb into Beirut by car.

[38] NABTI, Jumana. Leveraging Infrastructure. Sustainable Bus Rapid Transit Route Planning in Beirut, Lebanon, Master Thesis in City Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), June 2004, pp. 11-12.

[39] In NABTI, Jumana. Leveraging Infrastructure. Op. cit., p. 30.

[40] Ibid, p. 12.

[41] In 2010, 4.583 accidents were officially recorded, causing the death of 549 persons and injuring 6.517 others, source: YASA for Road Safety, cf.

[42] i.e. Taxes on petroleum, on car imports, on car registrations, motor vehicle inspection (mécanique) and driving license fees.

[43] Source: 2010 Public Finance Report, Ministry of Finance, Republic of Lebanon, available on

[44] Which can amount three to five billion dollars a year, cf.

[45] The VAT has know an extraordinary ascension in revenues since its successful implementation in 2002, when the first year generated 662 million $ (in eleven months), hence increasing the total state revenues by 29.5% at that time. For more insight on the VAT policy in Lebanon, cf. EL MUFTI, Karim. ­­Place et rôle des Hauts Fonctionnaires dans la machine-Etat au Liban, Mémoire de DEA, Université Saint-Joseph, 2003, pp. 80-96.

[46] BURNHAM, James. L’Ere des organisateurs, Calman-Lévy, Paris, 1946.

[47] Former Prime Minister Rafic Hariri was assassinated in Beirut on 14th February 2005 in a car bomb terrorist attack.

[48] Whereas it used to share power with a parliamentarian majority held by the 14 March group (2005-2011).

[49] Point 32 of the Ministerial Declaration presented before the Parliament by the Government headed by Najib Mikati, July 2011.

[50] This incident led to the resignation of outgoing Interior Minister Ziad Baroud after the officials of the Internal Security Forces under his command refused to carry out his orders to withdraw from the scene.

[51] Name of the official parliamentarian bloc of the FPM.

[52] ATALLAH, Sami. Managing Lebanon’s Gas: Pursuing a Pipe Dream? Al Akhbar English Edition, 15 September 2011.

[53] Ibid.

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