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Lebanon Downhill, a Mafiocracy in Action

Dr. Karim El Mufti
University teacher 
Social entrepreneur

We need not talk about corruption in Lebanon anymore[1], its Greater Corruption that has taken over the land of the Cedars. More than 20 years after the end of the civil war and dozens of billions of dollars swollen up by the “costs” of reconstruction and rehabilitation, Lebanon’s situation remains as if the conflict just ended. As such, the current economic and social status appears to have worsened lately, as the infrastructure experienced serious degradation, coming close to collapsing: sharp power blackouts[2], mobile network failures, internet connection close to being the slowest in the world[3], absence of sustainable commuting system[4], ravaging pollution[5], rotten food[6], fake medicine[7], expanding chaotic urbanization and building structural failures[8], destruction of ancient heritage[9], not to mention that Beirut recently won the palm of the most expensive city in the region[10].

The list goes on and on, putting the future of the country’s economic and social welfare at great risk, not to mention the regression of human rights in what used to be the most progressive Arab country as far as freedom of expression is concerned[11]. The heavy militarization of policy making, which paramount represents the preoccupying new political custom of electing a military commander as head of State, along with the growing discretionary role of the General Security and other security agencies, also send worrying signals as to where Lebanon is headed. Not willing to tackle urgent socio-economic issues, the entirety of the political class strategically relies on the security grip (each allied with a particular security sector) to continue to impose the stability of a deeply corrupted system.

This Greater Corruption has not only put a halt to the modernization of the country, but has also established a very narrow profiting system in which members of the political elite substantially feed from the different lucrative sectors in our national economy, whether in public or private sector, thus handing over the country’s (un)management to the hands of a mafiocracy. Monopolies have restricted a big portion of the country’s wealth in the hands of a few ; unregulated banks are no match to the rising challenge of financing growth and modern sectors of economic activity ; the oil and gas reserves still await maritime exploitation ; consumers rights are left by the door not allowed any place in the system. Public land is either leased to the private sector for symbolic dollars[12], or partially privatized[13] or closed down for any public community to share[14]. Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) struggle to keep up with the heightening costs of doing business due to the lack of investments in proper infrastructure, causing heavy inflation of the costs of living for the Lebanese population.

In order for this mafiocracy to maintain its tight grip over Lebanon, three factors are in place. First, the absence of the notion of conflict of interest that lost all legal and cultural significance in both the public/private landscapes at all levels of the society[15]. Second, the protection umbrella granted by political and security actors tying up the hands of the judiciary and any law enforcement attempt. Thirdly, the continuous choice of policymakers to escape any reshuffling of the fiscal and financial burden in a fair and responsible manner and continue to rely on two major funding channels; for the State, dependency on foreign aid worth billions of dollars; for the Lebanese households, dependency on the expatriates’ yearly eight billion dollars sent to their families.

The effects of Greater Corruption led the social elevator to dramatically slow down, as educated youth flee a shallow job market and real estate costs suffocate young families now indebted for 20 or 30 years. As a result, grave consequences are starting to surface; the recent hike in the number of bank robberies, cases of breaking and entering, carjacking, looting and kidnapping (despite the “security enforcement month” recently launched by Interior Minister Marwan Charbel[16]), represent only the tip of the iceberg. Add to that the hard strike launched by EDL workers calling for an improvement of their working conditions, practically ignored by relevant authorities, while other do-have in the country do not share the fiscal burden within the national economy.

This alarming situation doesn’t seem to worry the ruling political class who doesn’t appear keen to change the unwritten rules of the present political economical system, despite the fact that we are approaching key parliamentarian elections next summer. As a matter of fact, the partial election in Koura held on 15 July 2012[17] shows how socio-economic factors are completely absent from the political formations’ agendas. According to Ahmad Hariri, Secretary General of the Future Movement, this partial election is a “prelude of the 2013 elections which will determine the face of Lebanon in the future[18]; no word (from either political sides) of the difficult living conditions in the local areas of the district.

The current mafiocracy is a collection of war makers, whether past or present. They have brought conflict, destruction, displacement and today, greater corruption to a point of social and economic depletion. As such, they represent the greatest menace for the future of the country. They are, forever, indebted towards the children of the civil war and the generations beyond.

15 July 2012

[1] Transparency International ranks Lebanon as 134th out of 183 countries on their perceptions of corruption index, with a score of 2.5 out of 10, a level considered very corrupt. The country is perceived as the 13th most corrupt in the region, in The Daily Star, 14 June 2012, available at
[3]Lebanon has slowest Internet connection in the world”, Le Commerce du Levant, March 2011,
[4] Read “La Loi des Bulldozers”, L’Orient Le-Jour ,14 July 2012.
[5] Read “Air Pollution linked to Cancer in Lebanon”, The Daily Star, 28 July 2010.
[6] In March 2012, a food safety crisis was revealed as several tons of meat, chicken and fish were dumped throughout Lebanon by irresponsible restaurant owners, read
[7] Lebanon frequently has to deal with counterfeit drugs on the local market leading to many fatal consequences, read “Fake drugs are real threats”, Now Lebanon, 29 March 2010.
[8] On 15 January 2012, a building collapsed in Fassouh neighborhood of Beirut killing 27 people. Read
[9] The latest episode of the destruction of Lebanese Heritage was the devastation by real estate promoters of ancient ruins on the Mina El Hosn protected site in Beirut on 26 June 2012, read 
[11] See the innovative civil society series Mamnou3/Forbidden, A Lebanese web-series about the day-to-day inner workings of the country's censorship bureau,
[12] For instance, the Golf Club in Ouzai (South of Beirut), a select club established on a public lot, is rented by the State to a private holding for 1.100 Lebanese Pounds a year (0.73$), cf An Nahar, 6 April 2011. On another note, public coast land is rented to private beach resorts by State for 4.5$ per sqm, as disclosed by Al Akhbar on 2 July 2012, cf
[13] Like the case of SOLIDERE, cf BEYHUM, Nabil. The Crisis of Urban Culture: The Three Reconstruction Plans for Beirut. The Beirut Review, n°4, Fall 1992
[14] Like the case of Horsh Beirut, the Pine Forest at the heart of Beirut closed to the public, cf “Beirut’s lone public park isn’t”, Los Angeles Times, 7 January 2011.
[15] On Lebanon’s contemporary pathology, read Samir Khalaf, Lebanon Adrift, Saqi Books, 2012
[17] Due to the passing away of district’s MP Farid Habib.

1 comment:

  1. Hello Karim,

    Great post you got there and I cannot agree more on what you say!

    Moreover, I believe you could've added a section on the relation and impact of neighboring countries' intervention/impact on us whether Syria, Jordan or the Occupied Land. What happens there, the money being funneled in and out, the political alignment here and there play a major factor in the "mafiocracy" you mentioned.

    Keep up the great work!