The devils must go

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This year’s Arab Summit was particularly painful to watch. The pompous grandiosity of the congregated Arab leaders was nothing short of nauseating. What do they have to show for it? Collectively, these leaders are at the helm of nearly 400 million Arabs. What are their KPIs? The World Bank estimates a collective GDP of $2.56 trillion for the Arab League states. Assuming one third of that is revenue derived from resource extraction and not human productivity, we are left with a collective GDP for 22 states on par with the GDP of Italy’s 60 million people. Sixty million Italians as productive as 400 million Arabs!? Our leaders must go.

If these numbers don’t prove the case against Arab leaders, their own words certainly indict them. Speech after speech, each head of delegation took his turn addressing Arab causes and concerns, their cause célèbres. However, not once did I hear a mere mention of education, human development, social development or employment. Not once did I catch an allusion to the role of the private sector in advancing Arab economies. These decision-makers have signed international trade agreements with countries all over the world yet ignore their own neighbors.

What bothers me most, of course, is the fate that continues to plague Lebanon, my country. As a young man, I would feel a tremendous sense of pride and admiration while observing our leaders at these summits. Even during Lebanon’s darkest days – when our leaders were warlords draining us to the last drop – Lebanon could still claim to have some semblance of a democracy, and we could still proudly boast about our high-quality education and the raw talent and entrepreneurial spirit of the workforce we were releasing to the world. However, in the past 10 to 12 years, our so-called leaders have stripped us to the bare minimum. They even tried to strip us of our dignity.

There is no doubt that our country is in economic ruin for no reason other than dysfunctional management. Our politicians are so consumed with their personal ambitions and materialistic pursuits that they are only able to see the state as a tool to advance their own personal and electoral interests. The farce of the budgeting process is a case in point – a scandal that has largely unfolded behind closed doors. Why are we proposing an increase of taxes that will further bleed a populace already drained by its leaders’ lack of economic policy and vision? Where is any attempt to build capital markets that would actually boost our dormant economy instead of further burdening it?

Our inept decision-makers have no response to an increasingly discontented and livid population. These devils must go.