The social contract between the state and the people is broken. It had been crumbling for a long time. We’re reminded of the state’s failures every month when we pay two electricity bills and every summer when we pay two water bills. For decades we’ve made concession after concession, the worst being acceptance of the Taif Accord. Beaten down by years of death and destruction, we were so fed up we actually pardoned our warlords and allowed them to become princes in a kingdom of corruption. The system these pardoned criminals oversee will take years to rid of its filth – much like the open garbage dumps our lawbreakers are directly responsible for.
In spite of the many barriers to our competitiveness, Lebanon still has a reputation of being resilient. A phoenix rising from the ashes. This is true only because of our entrepreneurial spirit and the determination of private enterprise. Our social safety net is woven of remittances from our successful sons and daughters abroad. It was not strategically designed by policy makers. For decades now the private sector has held this country together by providing people livelihoods and – all too often – access to basic services. With the region in turmoil and regardless of our central bank’s best efforts our economy is crashing. We’ve finally reached a breaking point. This country is becoming unlivable. We need change, and it must be centered on the rule of law.
As we note in a special report this month, the threat of potential oil and gas revenues being stolen or mismanaged is real and only ironclad legislation can protect them. Building this industry from scratch with the right laws in place will be an instructive exercise. We need to rebuild the entire Lebanese system to make sure citizens’ rights are protected. A properly functioning legal system must be this country’s backbone. Without the confidence that rights, property and investment are protected, there is no moving forward.