Worried Lebanese

thought crumbs on lebanese and middle eastern politics

Imagining new Ministries for Lebanon

Posted by worriedlebanese on 08/11/2006

It’s becoming more and more likely that instead of setting up a new government, the “14 leaders” will agree on the enlargement of the present one and allow for a couple of portfolio reshuffling.

Ministry for communitarian and intercommunal affairs. Lebanon has 17 officially recognised and organised communities (not 18 nor 19… check your maths) and their relations with each others, the State or the citizens are everything but simple. This ministry would be in charge of bringing up to date the legislation pertaining to the Lebanese communities and grounding them on clear liberal and democratic principles. Some issues that should urgently be addressed:
– Unequal treatment between Muslims and non-Muslim institutions (the State only finances the former),
– Unclear separation between the States and the Religious institutions: State interference in communitarian affairs (the Parliament has lately reorganised the institutions of a community), and religious leaders interference in State affairs (censorship).
– Illiberal organisation of communities (the authorities that manage communal affairs are not elected through universal suffrage, and citizens cannot create new communities).

Ministry for the eradication of corruption and ‘patronage’: Lebanon today has an Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) but it’s purpose is too general and its means to small. This office wanted to modernise the administration, fight corruption and make the public administration more transparent, citizen-friendly and efficient. It hasn’t really achieved this aim. The Ministry for the eradication of corruption and ‘patronage’ would have to produce figures showing where there is corruption, and how the patronage system works, and put forward ways to fight it.

Ministry for the welfare of Palestinians in Lebanon. By all estimates, the Palestinian population in Lebanon. Lebanon has a directorate that deals with these issues, which is something quite absurd, knowing the demographic importance of the Palestinian population, its needs and the issues it raises. Up to now the State has refused to interfere in Palestinian affairs under the claim that this would mean their gradual integration and likely naturalisation in Lebanon. And so it has recognised a Palestinian sovereignty on camps and the Palestinian population which creates a dual sovereignty in Lebanon. This ministry would help depoliticise the Palestinian file and help the government deal more responsibly with Palestinian affairs, ending discrimination, enforcing the rule of law over all the Lebanese territory and the principle of democracy and individual freedom (the local and political representatives of the Palestinians are not elected).

Ministry of Reconstruction and regional development. Today, these issues are treated by several institutions that reinforce the ‘client state’. There is the Council of the South that is granted its own budget (and is controlled by the current Speaker), the Council of development and reconstruction (that is directly linked to the Prime Minister)

Ministry for Decentralisation and Regionalisation. Decentralisation is one of the central political issues that were discussed and agreed upon in Taef in 1989. But for a very obscure and absurd reason, the Ministry of the Interior (the symbol of centralisation) was chosen to handle this file. Not only it did not start decentralisation, but it strengthened its grip on the municipalities and the only proposal it made for decentralisation was an up-down system where the Ministry or Parliament could draw the boundaries of the different decentralised entities without their having a say in this issue. The Ministry for decentralisation and regionalisation would have to devise a down-up system where municipalities would be able to unite and form larger decentralised entities with power and means to have their own local policies.

Ministry for the Advancement of Peace in the Middle East: Lebanon could have a very important input in the advancement of peace in Lebanon because of its liberalism and the Cabinet’s strong ties with the conflicting parties (Iran, the USA, France, Egypt, Jordan, Syria… and once Israel). This ministry would have to make proposals and start actions aiming at making Lebanon a pro-active party in peace (in stead of a victim in war).

Ministry for the treatment of the public debt: For a start it would be interesting to know how big the debt is and what measures are taken to reduce it.

Ministry for gender parity: Almost nothing has been done up to now. At least such a ministry would have to work on the advancement of this issue and put forward plans and start actions aimed at reinforcing the participation and involvement in women both in the public and the private sector.

Ministry for cross-border and social mobility: Lebanon has a growing Diaspora on one side and a growing number of immigrants on the other. The Lebanese living in the Diaspora could be of great support to Lebanon and their ties to Lebanon should be reinforced. The foreign immigrants to Lebanon should be given equal civic rights and those who choose to stay in Lebanon should be allowed to ask for citizenship.
As for social mobility, the country has a very rigid class system with a lot of social exclusions that hit Lebanese and foreign laborours. The ministry would have to think about ways and progammes to stop this exclusions and foster social inclusion. The idea is to replace the notion of ‘national cohesion’ by that of ‘social cohesion’.

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