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

Monday, March 12, 2007

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!

But wait!

"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.


  • At 3/12/07, 7:13 PM, Anonymous Abu Kais said…

    Habibi Josey. Lysandra Ohrstrom's sources are on crack. This minister is so pure and clean that, when he resigned, he took all the files of the ministry with him. I believe that's worse than corruption: theft.


  • At 3/12/07, 7:59 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Thanks AK.

    My piece did say "if true", I realize no one was on record.

    But even if your story of "Fneish took the ministry files" is correct, that's even more political ammo for M14.

    Either way there is something to be screaming about, people to be arrested and political leverage to be used.

    Where's everyone? The press could get to the bottom of stories like these in a couple of days.

  • At 3/15/07, 10:28 AM, Anonymous vox said…

    I think that you're over-optimistic JW. Fneish tried to dismantle this unit because it was related to the Future movement, not because he was fighting corruption. Indeed he did nothing during his tenure to improve bill recollection from Shia-populate areas. There are plenty of Shias hired because of their Amal affiliation in the energy ministry (not to forget Christian installed by the late Hobeika) who only come to collect their salaries, and don’t expect Fneish to remove these.

    Lat but not least, according to a post published by Abu Kais a couple of months ago, Fneish left the ministry and took a lot of documents to paralyze the ministry (link below)


  • At 3/15/07, 4:41 PM, Blogger JoseyWales said…


    Same as my response to AK. I suspect you guys are right on Fneish.

    Either way, my point is the gvmnt/M14 should:

    1) stop the corruption, gain credibility

    2) AND use it politically either to bash Hezbo/Aoun or to get closer to them.

  • At 3/15/07, 9:57 PM, Anonymous vox said…

    14th of March could and should have done so many things, but they simply didn't. They may be better than the alliance of idiots and fanatics also known as the oppoistion, but I must say that the 14th of March has been disappointing on so many levels.

    I once stood behind the 14th of March because of the ideals they represent, a free and independent Lebanon. Now I ask myself if it is realistic to expect something good to come out of an alliance of thieves and warlords.

    You don't need to be an oracle to see that Lebanon needs better.

  • At 3/16/07, 7:21 AM, Blogger JoseyWales said…

    Vox. Total agreement.

  • At 3/21/07, 7:22 AM, Blogger Shirin said…

    I'm glad the Lebanese press is fulfilling our right for freedom of information and is helping our nation become aware of what's really going on, not that I like to hear about corruption, I just feel the exposure will bring us a step closer to a solution, the beginning of new times, and to a prosperous, blossoming early spring.


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