The magazine proposes a few resolutions for 2016. And we’re starting the year by practicing them. First, we call on the best and brightest Lebanese minds to seize the potentially lucrative opportunities that the Paris Agreement on climate change will afford. This is why we’ve put climate change on our cover.
Our second, and most important, resolution is that 2016 will be our year of business ethics. There’s no better place to start than with the worst disaster this country has seen in recent memory: the (mis)handling of waste management. We take an in-depth look at a local company given far more opportunity than international best practice suggests it should have had. We’re setting the stage for a year in which we will take a very hard look at business ethics in this law-ignoring country.
Milton Friedman wrote that a company’s top brass — be they a board of directors or a small number of executives — has only one objective: make more profit year-on-year for the benefit of the company’s most important stakeholder, its shareholders. Of course, the company must obey the law, conduct business in a responsible manner and treat its employees respectfully and well. As we publish our months-long investigation into Averda, parent company of waste managers Sukleen and Sukomi, what we’ve found is plenty of government malpractice. Yet for every rumor we chased, we could not substantiate illegal behavior on the company’s part. Even the notion that the company only received contracts because of its founder’s religion or alleged ties to the late Rafik Hariri is undermined by the fact that each time Sukleen or Sukomi were given a no-bid contract, the entire cabinet approved. The conspiracy to divide the pie is one all of our politicians are in on.
Our system is so broken and the laws and regulations we have on the books are so poorly enforced that it looks perfectly legal for a company to be given not only a monopoly on waste management, but years and years of taxpayer-financed work without having bid on a contract in more than 20 years. In fact, the Shura Council in 2001 gave Averda’s contracting in Lebanon a legal seal of approval. It’s bewildering. No-bid contracts might be legal in Lebanon, but they are neither reflective of international best practice nor of the Lebanon we want to see.
The summer of 2015 saw protests we hoped would achieve more. We published a manifesto to help inform this country’s citizens because we’ve spent nearly 20 years pointing out what’s wrong in Lebanon and what needs to be done to right it. In 2016, you can expect us to name and shame both corporates and government officials. And we won’t be using Lebanese standards. Like the manifesto, our coverage this year is meant to help activists and pressure groups know who is doing wrong and how and what can be done better. We want an inclusive economic system, and the most effective way to get there is by promoting best in class corporate behavior. We’re on a mission, so keep reading.