Impressions, views, and steam-blowing by a lonesome cowboy.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


I hate to repeat the obvious, but somehow in Lebanon, the obvious is not grasped by many. This is a bit of a "cheap" post, it is my reply to other bloggers from this post.

I chose to re-post separately, in light of internal and external incidents in the past 24 hours, to make my main point: we keep missing the BIG issues (SECURITY and CORRUPTION) and we (Lebanese) refuse to address them. Until we do, nothing will get solved. Here's the reprint, apologies again.

I don't want discuss the technical details of the VAT, which may or may not be a good thing in Lebanon.

Raja, of course the state needs revenues, but it can tax the economy 10% and it can tax it 50%. Also do not forget that corruption acts like a tax too. And people need to know, or be told, what the money is doing for them to feel responsible an involved.

I disagree when Steve says it's a good sign we are discussing details. We cannot shove things under the rug that is always a recipe for disaster.

Security is the number-one issue, and like it or not it is tied to: arms, Palestinians, Syria, Lahoud, Hezballah, etc.

It is a mistake, and bound to disappoint you and others to pretend that fixing a tax here, and getting a competent bureaucrat there will solve things.

Don't get me wrong, these things may need to be done, but they will remain very marginal and subject big setbacks if we do not address the BIGGER issues.

The Palestinian armed presence issue was ignored in the 60s, civil war ensued.

The Syrian relation issue was avoided in the 70-80s; a devastating occupation lasted 30 years.

Now, shhh again, let's talk taxes not security. The UN investigators will not provide security by themselves. 2 (or 3?) people got killed just from "joy" after Berri's election, HA (Hezballah) and Israel are shelling each other again in the south today.

Just as Paris XVI or money from the IMF or Saudi will not solve our economic problems in the long run. You just need a sound economic environment.

You can have a Nobel economist in every government job in Lebanon, and no good will come of it, as long as the environment is NOT SAFE (first physically=security, then legally=corruption, and then fiscally=taxes).

So I guess we disagree a bit on the order of priorities. Of the pols, as usual, will find it easier to avoid the big issues.

PS. Raja, you guessed right, I am a small-government guy. But please don't put words in my mouth. I'll look at the VAT and consider it, I do not know enough about it now. But to defend it because the Europeans have one is meaningless to me.


  • At 8/7/05, 11:19 PM, Anonymous barney said…

    José -

    I had a very unusual father; he made up for not having many degrees by being highly EDUCATED, a lot of it was by self-education; I don't remember ever seeing him sit in the family room at night but with a book in his hand. Shakespeare. Freud. Homer. You name the poet or philosopher ior historian or essayist and he had read - and retained - it! As I read your post, I remembered something he talked to me about; he had just read Maslow's work on Hierarchy of Needs, and was excited about this concept; he kept thinkling about things which had happened in the past to his friends and acquaintences, and he kept relating their actions to this theory.

    So naturally, when you say that Lebanon NEEDS security, I am reminded that security is next to the most basic needs of mankind, according to Maslow. The most basic needs are called physiological needs, including food and air, and then psychological needs of love,etc. AFTER these are satisfied, Maslow theorized that Security came next.

    If I read what you posted, José, you are saying that at this stage, Lebanonese NEED Security. If they, as a whole, have enought food and drink, then Maslow would agree that SECURITY would come next.

    I understand, for example, that Lebanon has about half million Palestinians living in camps within Lebanon, and that they are armed. I'd forget about Hezbollah right now and do something about the Palestinian arms. Having ARMED non-citizens in your country in big numbers would come before any discussion of a VAT tax!



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