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

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Downtown Businesses to Sue Government

In this Daily Star story, an association of downtown businesses wants the government to help; or else they are threatening to sue the government. In my recollection, you cannot sue the government in Lebanon or it’s never been successfully done.

However, leaving that annoying fact alone, the ILLEGAL sit-in in downtown started on December 1 2006, three months ago and these fools just woke up now?

Perhaps “woke-up” is too strong. Maybe they are still tossing and turning in bed. In fairness, I suspect that business lobbies and representatives made noises before, but that is precisely my point. Only “noises” before and still, when forceful action and campaigning should have been the order of the day.

"The main message is for the Lebanese politicians to be responsible," Salameh told The Daily Star. "They cannot leave us in such a situation because they're not agreeing on a certain formula. We're fed up."

It took them THREE months to come up with a gem like this?

Of course, to this day, they are getting nowhere with Lahoud, who actually wants the economy to go to hell, nor with Seniora/Saniora, who missed every opportunity to act decisively and is now doing more of the same.

So maybe businesses never had a chance. But that is, again, my point. For things to change in Lebanon everyone is counting on civil society, and the business community is failing the country as badly as the politicians and our (non-)thinking “ineffectuals”.

The pols have zero credibility and their abject failure needs no further proof. The business community had an opportunity to jump in and make forceful points, not only to protect its own interests but also because these interests coincide with those of most Lebanese: the Lebanese interested in keeping their jobs, stores, businesses and livelihoods. And I am not only talking about downtown; the squat-in is reverberating throughout the economy.

Before I get the typical Lebanese crybaby comment “what do you want them to do?", here’s my answer: As captains of the economy, business leaders should issue statement after statement with estimates of losses in dollars and jobs BEFORE strikes, sit-ins, wars etc actually take place. Yes! SCARE the beejesus out of everyone!. They should make clear that these losses would be the responsibility of the government/political class.

They should try to enlist the support of all the religious leaders, intellectuals, to increase the pressure. These groups should openly threaten a handful of key politicians that they have the money to run strong candidates against the creeps at the next elections. And yes, they should threaten to sue the government, but BEFORE the fact, or after one week, not AFTER the economy has collapsed.

The business community has a tremendous untapped advantage. It can take a position and/or speak in names of people from all sects. Such a message, because non-political, and because multi-confessional, would carry weight with the pols, and the religious leaders, and people at large.

I am not saying that results are guaranteed but such a move is necessary for now and for the future. The political class has shown it has no interest in a solution, in part because each side is comfortable “their” people have nowhere to go politically (save for Aoun's).

Back to our business association(s), they are now asking for business tax relief and other handouts to ride out the current the situation. Too little, too late as usual.

Faced with existential threats to the nation and the economy, and now that many jobs and businesses have been lost, the remaining ones want a few crumbs which is understandable but nowhere near enough.

The government has, yet again, failed to uphold the law. The sit-in/protest is ILLEGAL** and detrimental to specific businesses, as well as to the economy at large. Milquetoast Seniora/Sanioura is still asleep at the switch while getting kudos from many in the press.

The protest should never have gotten to downtown and should never have lasted this long. The government should have thought of prosecuting the leaders of the protest movements. It should now seriously consider removing the protesters peacefully, one-by-one if need be. And if violence erupts, it should clearly be on the heads of the ILLEGAL squatters and their leaders.

My hopes are not very high however. This same or similar downtown association was, only a few days ago, asking the protesters to take their action elsewhere, away from downtown.

In other words: Dear protesters, keep destroying the economy, but please go do it by screwing someone else’s business, somewhere else.

** Lebanese law requires a permit AND an itinerary, well ahead of time, even for a short 15-minutes protest, let alone the crap we are witnessing now.


  • At 3/2/07, 7:37 PM, Anonymous Kheireddine El-Ahdab said…

    Dear Josey,

    You should expect worse in the future as I heard from some Hizbollah supporters that they are expecting a new civil war. As usual, once the Lebanese state disintegrates, everything is allowed. I am sure that those people in the tents are planning to squat the Downtown buildings, it is a question of time before you see laundry hanging from the windows & balconies.

  • At 3/3/07, 12:55 PM, Blogger www.blogs4arab.com said…

    يسعدنا تشريفك

  • At 3/4/07, 3:16 AM, Anonymous the real joe said…

    I wonder why you equate the lebaneese economy with few restaurants ,night clubs and shops.
    As if all the lebaneese workforce is made of waiters,chefs,clothing shops employees.
    the government is doing nothing for these as well as for others.where are the programs of defense for the jobs related to engineers in all specialities.The technicians of all specialities.and others.farmers?
    the government is applying the policies of former governments in transforming lebanon in a big bordello.restaurants,clothes shops,and banks.

  • At 3/4/07, 7:21 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    I am not equating the economy with downtown per se. And I don't like downtown for some of the reasons you mention.

    However a guy losing his job there, or anywhere, is a family losing support. It is another guy vulnerable and sufferring in our country at a time of political/economic upheaval of the making of the opposition (ditto for the summer war and its impact on the economy).

    Also, this is about atmospherics. You know very well the opposition is affecting ALL of the economy and the country by shutting downtown, and that is why they are there.

    You think new investments are flowing to factories elsewhere with the current shitty environment?

    Yes the gvmnt could do other things but that is unrelated and no excuse for destroying the general outlook and the livelihood of those working downtown.

    Finally if you think a waiter (or service person) is less productive than some engineer or defense guy, that is a very old marerialist canard that we'll debunk some other time.


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