Home Editorial The momentum was building

The momentum was building

Instead of thinking big, the Lebanese political class thinks small

by Yasser Akkaoui

When the World Cup kicked off last month, it felt like a good summer was in the offing. Bars and cafes were full. The Gulf countries had lifted their travel bans, and we could already see tourists and expats on the streets. Hotels were finally reporting decent occupancy rates — with the tourism minister even saying the Phonecia, Le Gray and Crowne Plaza reached nearly 100 percent.

Now, after almost three months of silence, bombings are back and we find terrorists are booking hotel rooms. Even if the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria fails to bring more wanton murder to Lebanon, the country will still feel the pressure of these monsters’ actions in Iraq and Syria. This is a long-term problem that requires long-term planning, not only by security forces.

Parliamentarians and civil servants — safe in jobs they keep no matter how little they work — don’t feel the effect of this randomness the way so many others do. Hardworking people lose jobs when hotels are empty. Entrepreneurs lose business when fear keeps customers at home. Real estate developers sit on projects — sometimes at significant cost — when bombs push buyers away.

Instead of thinking big, facilitating economic growth and luring in foreign direct investment, Lebanon’s political class thinks small — worried most with lining their own pockets.

The disdain someone like Ogero chief Abdel Moneim Youssef shows for the private sector — which is humiliated into waiting for the crumbs he throws them — is sickening. Private internet providers want to spend their money on more capacity and access to central offices. A civil servant should not be allowed to stop them — especially when higher internet penetration has been proven to directly boost GDP.

Similarily, petty bickering since early 2013 has stopped oil and gas exploration dead in its tracks. Moving forward would draw in FDI creating jobs in local companies servicing the industry (not to mention the benefits if actual discoveries are made). International oil companies do business in rough places, so the security risk will not necessarily deter them.

While private enterprise has always adapted to new security threats, this one will not soon disappear. Companies may find it difficult to survive, but Lebanese at home and abroad are used to rising to these and many other challenges. Sadly, it would be too ambitious to ask the crooks in power to join in the effort.

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Yasser Akkaoui

Yasser Akkaoui is Executive's editor-in-chief.

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