Usually, it is a no-brainer for a business to say that it is important to strategize for the year(s) to come. Planning for future demand shifts, organizational challenges and leadership succession, and mapping out new enterprise opportunities is essential for any longer term business venture, just as it is standard for a state to have some sort of economic vision and plan. On the level of the state, this devising of economic strategies historically has in some state systems been constructed centrally, as a multi-year planned strategy, but in market societies historic records demonstrate the superior value of having a national economic policy on principles of trust, freedom and responsibility – principles that Lebanese society has favored upon the country’s independence.
At this point, Lebanon is some 50 months past the moment when a prudent government would have revised economic policy, instituted such things as a capital controls law, or perhaps have tried imposing something as counterintuitive to free trade and historic laissez-faire practices as adopting an ultra-hard, currency board regime in conjunction with an interventionist regime of economic dirigisme.
None of that has happened. Instead, all that has been embedded more deeply in Lebanon in these years – and increasingly so in the past eight months since the 2022 institution of new political blockages by a process mistakenly portrayed as democratic – has been the despicable rule of corruption, the long-term detrimental power of informality, and triple political diseases of virulent depreciation, galloping inflation, and overall economic depression.
2023 has already been shaped into Lebanon’s fourth year of suffering – targeted misery and deliberate indecisions – complete and continued uncertainty. If the physical principle of increasing entropy in an isolated system were to apply to this polity’s existence, this system would be on a predictable trajectory to an end-state where available energy has vanished and information is lost.
But the law of Lebanese economic energy does not appear to be subservient to the model of maximum entropy. As the track record of living in an impossible system suggests, the human mind’s irrepressible power can manifest in such a closed, dead-end system as an accelerating process of combination, complexification, and convergence of energies. The economically expressed reflective and projective consciousness – when one defines economic energy as the irresistible impulse to create, initiate, and be industrious in the interest of an economic systems evolution – reveals itself most impressively in the fact that the functional vacuum in the realm of political decision making draws out new emanations of private sector economic energy. It has been said that the optimum result in the development of consciousness is increasing altruism, collaboration, complexification, and convergence.
One necessity that arises from the shift to – metaphysical and even very physical – private energy flows in Lebanon’s economic transition is a vast increase in the role and contribution of private planning for what have traditionally been public goods that were presumed to be under the care of the state. To illuminate this necessity and seek evidence for this trend, Executive invited 25 business and thought leaders to outline their strategies for the economy, business organizations, and provision of public goods in Lebanon in the coming year. With a response rate of 45 percent, we have gathered an impressive array expressing strategy leadership in this issue of the magazine, with a very important strong showing from education thought leaders at the leading business schools and universities.
However, in wider terms, the shift of thought leadership and initiative from a dysfunctional provision of public goods and reforms towards private sector initiative has yet to accelerate by one or several degrees of magnitude. If one supposes with a perturbingly high degree of confidence – on the basis of the data on governmental action in response to long-standing public sector reform needs and last year’s IMF requirements (see story by Rouba Bou Khzam) – that governmental action in response to reform needs will remain stuck in partial and small legislative measures that supply a single-digit rate of return to urgent needs, the rate of private sector and civil society strategizing needs to ramp up towards 100 percent of ethical, even if state-defying and technically disobedient, response actions that will incentivize the state to do its job in terms of legislating, strategizing, and being the counterparty to the polity’s rightful demands.
In light of this huge need, Executive will continually highlight our Economic Roadmap 6.0 throughout this year. Dispatching weekly alerts of highlighting specific and timely Agenda Priorities via social media channels, we will do our best to draw your attention, intervention, and action to each week’s most pertinent Roadmap propositions.
The question which Executive has asked thought leaders and avid business minds at the beginning of 2023 is how they will strategize for this year. It is vital that all of us answer this question and contribute to the implementation of the best answers as they arise from the continual process of poring our minds and energy into action.