It has been a year since Lebanon agreed on a path out of its crises, promising to undertake serious reform efforts in exchange for the $11 billion pledged by the international community at CEDRE. The nine months after CEDRE were primarily spent on political bargaining and government formation, all built on the hope that these funds were the way out of our current malaise.
These past two months our new government has become obsessed with securing the CEDRE funding, revealing how addicted our political elite are to handouts. Yet there has been no indication that the government is even capable of enacting the reforms needed to unlock CEDRE funding. Their hunger to divvy up the promised funds has blinded them to the reality of what reform really means. They have fallen into a trap of their own making.
In order to access the $11 billion, the government will have to dismantle a web of informal, unregulated, and illegal privileges that have been distributed from on high in order to extract the wealth of the Lebanese for the benefit of the few, and, in its place, create a national system that works in the public interest. And all this is expected to take place in a matter of months—good luck!
Alternatively, every industry in this country has a wealth of human resources and energy. If the government was able to engage on an industry level it could unlock a productive potential far greater than the promised $11 billion. The private sector’s energy, coupled with its knowledge and creativity, is a much smarter and adaptive resource for the government.
The Lebanese have a natural talent for design, one that has been honed over the years through the innovation and adaptation that has been necessary to survive. We expect our government to allow the private sector to step up its role and take the lead. It needs to migrate from an extractive model to an inclusive one—one were every stakeholder is engaged in order to improve productivity, efficiency, and value creation in the country.
It is only when our government becomes more inclusive, and puts creative thinkers at the heart of its efforts, that Lebanon will start solving its own problems and unleashing its true potential.