The Investment Development Authority of Lebanon is in a unique position. It has autonomy to make many decisions on its own and is more or less immune from having its work disrupted by a political class that cannot make decisions. IDAL does not sit for years with its hands tied, awaiting a government decree to move forward with its plans. Nor does IDAL have its strategy reworked every time a new minister comes to power. It ought to be the most successful and properly functioning state institution this poorly governed country has. That it is not is outrageous.
In October of last year, IDAL turned 20. We should be celebrating 20 years of steady job creation and increasing foreign direct investment. This magazine should have an investigative report detailing years of IDAL’s direct contributions to GDP growth by slashing through red tape to help investors boost the economy. Instead, we have an account of how political influence and incompetent leadership have made IDAL an embarrassment.
We need more jobs. We need more investment. But attracting them requires a well thought out strategy, a strategy that navigates our weaknesses and the threats to our economy in order to draw on the extraordinary human capital this country has. Beyond baskets of incentives, IDAL requires a basket of skilled, hardworking and incorruptible leaders to serve on its board of directors.
In the corporate world, board members who don’t deliver and CEOs who fail repeatedly either step down or get thrown out by angry stakeholders. Looking at IDAL’s performance since 1994, one cannot help but conclude its leadership is, and has been, incompetent. It is hard to imagine that someone leading such an organization for over 10 years — as Nabil Itani has — can have any pride in himself or his work given how little he has done in that time.
There is no shame in admitting you are not the right person for a job. But there is shame in collecting a paycheck you didn’t earn and squandering opportunities the country so desperately needs to exploit. Itani and the board behind him are embarrassing themselves and this country. It is beyond time they all resign.