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January 01, 1992 | English
Postwar Institutional Development in Lebanon: an Assessment for Foreign Assistance

The goals of the study were:
1.     to evaluate the current and future dynamics of the political and institutional system;
2.     to evaluate the prospects for broad-based and sustainable economic development;
3.     to review the conditions of democracy and representative institutions;
4.     to examine the conditions of the judicial branch;
5.     to study the public administration and its problems; and
6.     to review the role and effectiveness of the media with the view of recommending specific projects that would strengthen democratic institutions and enhance economic development.

The main findings of the study were the following:
Policy
The Taif Agreement has provided a basis for the resumption of constitutional life in Lebanon. In 1991, the main militias were disarmed, the Army deployed over 1/3 of Lebanese territory, and new Deputies were appointed to Parliament to render Christian/Muslim representation equal. These were steps toward increased stability. However, several problems remain:
The government lacks strong internal cohesion;
The state's security and administrative organs are still dangerously weak;
The absence of elections for 20 years has widened the gap between rules and ruled contributing to low levels of popular legitimacy and political control;
The polity is till deeply divided along confessional lines;
The former militia leaders are in positions of power and could resume their previous functions if the state stumbles; and
Foreign influence within the country is still very high.

Economy
The rate of GNP growth for 1991 was a healthy 15-20%, but most of this was due to the normal resumption of economic activity after a long war and particularly after two years of continuous battles (1989-90). The rate of growth for 1992 is expected to be considerably lower. The economy, with and estimated GNP of $3.5 billion, is still heavily weighted toward the tertiary service sector, with industry and agriculture lagging in distant second and third places. Remittances from abroad make up a significant portion of the GNP. Inflation and unemployment are both at around 40%, with underemployment still higher. The Lebanese Pound held its value to the US Dollar throughout 1991 but is likely to drop in value as the government continues to run massive budget deficits.
The main problems facing the private sector are the following:
A poor infrastructure of electricity, roads, and communications; this introduces obstacles and costs to the efficient operation of industrial, commercial, and agricultural enterprises. This infrastructure was ravaged by the war, and the government has secured only a modest amount of foreign aid to begin repairing it. The government itself has not enough funds to undertake the repairs on its own, and the process is estimated to take 3-5 years depending on foreign assistance.
Low compatibility between skills needed and skills available in the work force; despite a relatively educated work force, there is much greater demand than supply of specific skills needed in the primary, secondary, and tertiary sectors.
Low confidence in the stability of the current political order; many private investors inside and outside the country are still sceptical about the strength and cohesion of the state and about the stability of the country's regional environment. The government is plagued by internal in-fighting and external opposition, large-scale corruption, low popular legitimacy, and massive debts and deficits. With regard to the region, there are fears that a failure of Arab-Israeli peace talks and renewed friction between Israel and Syria could destabilize Lebanon's alliance with Syria. These fears discourage large private investment.

Public Administration
The public administration suffers from a number of problems. These include the following:
Destruction or theft of material resources during the war
Drain of qualified personnel to the private sector or abroad
Decline in replacement investment since 1975
Increased meddling of political and militia leaders in administrative structure and affairs
Very low wages since 1985
Over 50% understaffing in mid- and top-level management posts and overstaffing in low-level offices
Widespread absenteeism
Widespread corruption
Outdated management practices
Priority of confessional over merit criteria in appointments and promotions
Chronic budget deficits with accumulating national debt
Usurpation of government prerogatives and functions by militia and foreign armies during the war.

The areas where assistance for public administration should be focused are
1.     The Civil Service Council and the National Institute for Public Administration; the CSC supervises the appointment and promotion of civil servants while NIPA provides initial and mid-career education and training. Both are seriously understaffed, under-trained, and under-equipped.
 2.     The Central Inspection Commission; the CIC was set up in 1959 to trace and fight corruption. It has a current staff of 17, housed in two small rooms, with no computer equipment and few material resources. It plays a central role in the administration and should be more amply housed, staffed, trained, and equipped.
 3.     Additional training programs for key mid- and top-level managers could be offered inside the country or abroad.

Representative Institutions
The main categories of representative institutions are Parliament, Municipal Councils, political parties, syndicates, and private associations and advocacy groups. While political parties, syndicates, and advocacy groups have, in some cases, grown in influence, the first two types of institutions have grown gradually weaker with the absence of parliamentary or municipal elections. With the last elections held in 1972, the majority of today's population has not participated in elections of any kind. Government officials have discussed the possibility of holding elections in 1992 or 1993, but this seems highly unlikely. The paralysis of the electoral process has widened the gulf between ruler and ruled and contributed to low levels of political consent and high levels of destabilizing radical opposition.
Nevertheless, Parliament still represents a large cross-section of Lebanese society and plays an important supervisory role with regard to the executive branch. As an institution, it is vastly understaffed and under-equipped. Deputies operate on an individual ad hoc basis, without the benefit of staff assistance, documents, or computerized data bases. The institution could make good use of training for new staff and modern office and computer equipment.
At the other end of the spectrum are a number of small associations and advocacy groups. These include environmental, human rights, women's, and handicapped rights groups who are in continuous need of training, equipment, and encouragement. They represent the first building blocs of a civic society on which any stable future for Lebanon would partially have to be built.

The Judicial Branch
Because of the presence of several strong law schools in the country - most notably, St. Joseph University - and the continued importance of real estate and inheritance litigation during the war, the judicial branch of government has fared better than other branches. The quality of judges is fairly high and corruption is relatively low. Because of the absence of growth during the war and the depletion of part of the judiciary's physical and human resources, the congestion of cases in the court system has become a serious problem.
More importantly, however, the judicial branch suffers from insecurity vis-a-vis political and militia leaders. This renders the judicial branch unable to perform its full function as a third autonomous branch of government. In crucial test cases, the judiciary has to back down in the face of executive pressure.
The main areas of assistance should include training programs for key judges domestically or abroad and support for the computerization of legal data and the building up of the central law library.

The Media
Print media have a well-established history in Lebanon dating back to the turn of the century. The audio-visual media are more recent, but new radio and television stations mushroomed dramatically during the war. Whereas before the war there were only 2 television stations and 1 radio station, there are now over 40 television stations and 185 radio stations. Most of these new stations are backed by particular militia or political groups. The media enjoy a wide margin of freedom in Lebanon, but there have been questions recently about the future of press freedom in Lebanon. Most media outlets exercise self-censorship on several sensitive topics; nevertheless, they maintain energetic critical campaigns against government policies and practices with which they disagree. In that sense, they perform some of the functions of a Fourth Estate.
Among the problems of the media are the following:
overbearing militia or political influences,
a general atmosphere of insecurity, and hence fear to publish freely,
chronic budgetary problems which invite foreign financing and influence; and
a weak tradition of investigative reporting.
Assistance to the media should be in the form of training and support for investigative reporting and support and encouragement for the various unions and syndicates of the media which serve to protect the rights and liberties of publishers and broadcasters.

Conclusion
Of all the sectors surveyed, the public administration is in most urgent need of help and is a key sector in bringing the country back to normalcy. The judiciary and the media are faring reasonably well, and the representative institutions cannot be effectively revived without holding elections. The public administration, however, contains the central nervous system of the state and can be affected positively through non-political aid programs. This would include providing training and equipment for key departments and offices within the administration. Aid to the public administration, however, does not preclude aid to other sectors.
 







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