In Praise of Fneish
Here’s a story we don’t see enough in the press (Daily Star March 12, 2007). If this story is true, no one spoke on record, then Minister Fneish deserves praise for his role at the Energy Ministry while PM Seniora/Sanioura and M-14 deserve further contempt.
According to the story, before his resignation, Hezbollah Minister Fneish had started/attempted to cut corruption in his department by slashing inflated salaries of do-nothings at the ministry. From the Daily Star, here’s a description of the unit Fneish started to rein in:
The activity of the unit was limited to importing fuel […SNIP…], and the majority of the staff were paid between $3,000 and $5,000 a month for what an informed source described as "clocking in and out of the office."
In addition to bloated wages, the source added, employees of the unit benefited from unjustified government benefits and were using state funds to cover personal expenditures ranging from maids to car insurance and telephone lines.
You can bet your last lira that every ministry in Lebanon contains such units. Of course we are very lucky, in Lebanon, if such moves last beyond a couple of days. Here’s the aftermath:
"Fneish decided that this money belonged to the government, so he cancelled their high salaries and unjustified benefits. But in February 2007, the acting minister [Public Works and Transport Minister Mohammed Safadi] cancelled the reforms because 400 of the employees are from his voting district in the North, and even recruited 39 additional Sunni Muslims from Tripoli," the source alleged.Thank you Minister Safadi, and thank you Lebanese press for following stuff like this once in a blue moon, and then dropping the ball altogether. (Still, kudos to the Daily Star on this one. Please, please, please, follow through guys.)
Furthermore, Fneish also apparently banned fishing with dynamite (isn’t it illegal anyway?) near the shoreline, in order to protect the pipelines and other vital installations. Bully for you Moe Fneish!
"I have learned that under Minister Safadi this is no longer the case," he [Fneish adviser Zakkaria Rammal] added, but declined to comment on why the [dynamite-fishing] ban was lifted.I can only guess: the ban on dynamite-fishing was lifted by Minister Safadi in order to help the eco-system and attract tourists to the area. Right?
The full story (link above) contains further details.
Of course this is bad enough on its own merits: corruption, theft, lack of action and follow-through by the pols and the press at large etc.
However, I think this also feeds into the larger political arena and goes to the political ineptness, if not outright corruption of many in M14.
Here was an opportunity to use Hezbo’s stance positively on an issue, and M14 blew it. These instances would be used by smart politicians to cut corruption, show Hezbo supporters that you agree with them on some issues, siphon some of Hezbo’s support (Aounists and others), shore up your own support. You would also embarrass corrupt opponents like Nabih Berri, weaken him, and introduce Amal-Hezbo friction.
But NOOOO! It’s more important to please Mohammed Safadi (whoever the hell he may be) and his thief-friends, while losing further political support and killing a nation already on life-support.