LEBANONESQUE

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

Monday, May 08, 2006

Stop Corruption: But Not Now, Next Time


"The March 14 Forces have strong clues on corruption nests at the heart of several sectors, and we can share them with the other camp, if they so wish. In any case, we'll have to discuss the matter at length." Walid Jumblatt (Joumblatt). (L'Orient-Le Jour, May 6, 2006, my translation).


The issue is not only Joumblatt (Jumblatt), or March 14, but a political culture that sees fit to make statements like the above without any follow through whatsoever. And a worthless press corps that hears these types of statements and goes back to sleep or to pontificate on matters they barely comprehend, like international politics.

This is President Lahoud about a month ago:

"there is a scandal in the telecommunications file resulting from distortion of facts since the two telecommunications companies operating in the country are not making profits currently and the government will soon sell one of them." He added: "Of course, I will stop this corruption and squandering of public money. ... I will not sign on the sale of the telecommunications firms' licenses!"
Lahoud threatened [bold mine] to uncover the schemes behind the issue which he considered "a scandal that will not pass unnoticed." (Daily Star, March 17, 2006).


On many other occasions when Hariri Sr. or Joumblatt or others would refer to corruption, Lahoud would reply (paraphrasing): "my opponents talk about corruption, everyone knows who is really involved in corruption. If my opponents want to talk about this, I threaten to open those files etc…" Of course the old Addoum-Lahoud-Syrian judiciary was an "if-then" judiciary. Not if you break the law then we will prosecute you. Rather, if you go against the regime, then we'll prosecute you. If you keep silent and do your corruption quietly, then we won't. In fairness the old judiciary was not much better, but this was carried to new extremes in recent years.

Another example I recall, more "abuse" than "corruption but in the same spirit. A couple of years ago, Ambassador Johnny Abdo's wife was assaulted and pushed to the ground by some goons in some supermarket. It was meant as a "shut-up" message to the Haririst Mr. Abdo (likely from Lebanese/Syrian Mukhabarat). Later Abdo stated he knew (or had a very good idea) who the culprits were, and that, by good golly, if it happened again, he would "speak".

These attitudes and statements, especially on part of public officials, are outrageous. And, even if not actionable, they should at the very least prompt the judiciary to seek a chat with the statements' author.

If you are a major politician (or anyone for that matter) in possession of corruption or abuse information, there should be NOTHING to discuss, with the "other camp" or amongst your own group.. The matters should be taken immediately to the judiciary, central inspection (Taftish el-Markazi), or some parliamentary commission.

The press should be hounding you for answers. Parliamentary groups should be holding hearings. The judiciary should be sending investigators. NGO's should be all over this.

Discussing a new plan for the economy, current Finance Minister Azour said that without losses due to corruption at EDL (Electrical Utility), the plan would not require any new taxes. Wanna bet that’s' the end of the story and new taxes will be imposed on a moribund citizen and economy?

Finally, the mother of all witnesses and scandals. Rana Koleilate sits at he heart of the biggest crime ever committed in Lebanon (Hariri murder, the UN suspects). She is also at the heart of the biggest Lebanese financial scandal ever, Al-Madina. The Lebanese government is "trying" to extradite her from Brazil where she was arrested TWO months ago. And for the umpteenth time, where are the editorials lambasting the officials on this one?

I don't believe they are trying to extradite her. Do you?

7 Comments:

  • At 5/8/06, 9:12 AM, Anonymous ghassan Karam said…

    Progressive income tax structures have only one rationale. Collect taxes from those that can afford to pay in order to deliver essential services to those that are in need. Such a system is accepted as being just and fair. Even the propotional tax structures are designed usually in such a way as to place a larger burden on the well off. That is very easily accomplished through exemptions to income at the bottom of the pyramid.

    Corruption works just in the opposite. Make no mistake about it, corruption is a tax levied by the rich primarily on the middle class and to a smaller extent on the poor. An example to illustrate the point: Instead of encouraging all forms of broadband access to the internet the Lebanese government has given a very limited license; in effect a monopoly; to form only a small company that is to offer DSL service at exorbitant prices. The lucky recepient of the license will become a very wealthy person, the few thousand Lebanese who value education and the internet will pay through the nose and the poor will have to put on hold their internet experience. EDL is another good example of this sorry state of affairs. In addition to all the government inefficiencies built into the system and that result in extremly uncompetitive rates we find out that again it is the overtaxed middle class that pays its electric bills while the poor and well connected get a free ride.

    Once corruption becomes endemic, it becomes the system and it will knaw at the backbone of society . We are at that stage and we should not expect salvation from thoose that brought us the virus in the first place. Lebanon is badly in need of a revolution at all levels.Unless we , the people, hold the pols responsible and unless we demand what is rightfully ours then things will continue to spiral out of control in all fields.

     
  • At 5/8/06, 1:49 PM, Blogger the perpetual refugee said…

    One thing we don't have in Lebanon (or the Middle East for that matter) is investigative journalism.

    We don't have journalists really picking away at a story (any story) and making sure people eat their words later.

    The Israelis have it. We don't.

    When there is no accountability or fear that you will eat those words, why not take advantage of the system. When you know you can steal millions without so much as anyone batting an eyelid (let along any respectable auditor going through the files), why not steal millions. Who cares about ethics and morality.

    It sure is funny that Lahoud talks about how he is anti-corruption yet his son drives around in a Lamborghini.

    I still can't get over the fact that in Lebanon, priests and sheikhs have drivers and Mercedes.

    As Ghassan stated, it is at every level.

    The question remains how can a culture that knows not what accountability means be transformed?

     
  • At 5/8/06, 4:06 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said…

    Lebanonesque you hope too much. I know it's human nature but don't expect anything from the **** who are leading us.

    Actually, this is not our politicians'fault, this is the fault of the people who voted for them. Next time I won't because the oppostion is no better.

     
  • At 5/8/06, 5:40 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Thanks Guys.

    I guess I wrote this post a little too quickly to make my point crystal clear.

    The main outrage here is not the existence and extent of corruption, well know to all.

    Rather it is, that from the president down, the officials IN CHARGE of fighting corruption keep saying "we know a lot, but we won't act on it, and we won't mention names".

    It's one thing to keep silent, but this is beyond the pale.

    They think we, the people, are stupid, and until further notice they are right.

     
  • At 5/8/06, 7:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    It's not they think we're stupid. Actually they've trained us to be like that! I always hope that things will change, but I am afraid it won't. As long as we're still not focusing on the main issue which is Lebanon, we'll stay in this vicious circle forever.

     
  • At 5/9/06, 1:18 PM, Anonymous robert said…

    Hi,
    Your post is quite interesting, I'd like to contact you.
    Your position against corruption in Lebanon is solid: consider signing the petition on Bluleb.com.
    Cheers,
    Robert

     
  • At 5/9/06, 1:54 PM, Anonymous Abu Kais said…

    "And a worthless press corps that hears these types of statements and goes back to sleep or to pontificate on matters they barely comprehend, like international politics."

    Worthless indeed. The media is completely numb and desensitized. They photograph children carrying mock rockets in front of the UN in Beirut and completely ignore it. Let's cover some politician's dinner party instead, or the inane national dialogue. Irresponsible morons.

     

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