NOTHING WITHOUT SECURITY
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.