Agreeing to disagree

Transparency in Lebanon remains non-existent

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Given that, in theory at least, with our new political order we are now in a position to pick our own high-ranking civil servants and also given that the people the new government picks for the top non-security jobs like EDL, the NSSF, Casino du Liban et al, will be scrutinized for their suitability (or lack of), it seems a fair assumption that the selection process would be a transparent and thoroughly reported affair; an opportunity for the government to show a genuine policy of “out with the old and in with the new.”

Not a bit of it. Phones calls placed earlier last month to several journalists drew a blank. Not only did they not know who was slated for what job, but they were not even sure what jobs, apart from the obvious, were up for grabs. All agreed it had all the hallmarks of a stalling game.

Syria may have packed its bags, but transparency remains on a par with the freemasons when it comes to telling the rest of us what is going on. Not only is this worrying in the immediate sense (it hardly shows that the government and no doubt the presidency, can sort out what are obvious and urgent priorities) but it also demonstrates that there is no level of accountability to the nation at large. We don’t count.

So what conclusions can one draw? If there is no consensus, perhaps, and one is going on a limb here, maybe the consensus is disagreement, a tactic to maintain the status quo, one that has seen, for example EDL, under the steady guidance of Kamal Hayek, continue to hemorrhage cash and demonstrate to the rest of the world that our inventory control, maintenance and bill collecting process puts us in the same league as the worst African nations. It remains a cash cow for politicians who see it as their very own pension fund.

The same can be said for the woefully under-exploited casino and the murky machinations of the NSSF, areas crucial to tourism and public administration and which desperately need the hand of a clean, talented technocrat whose tenure will be judged by his performance (especially his ability to reform) and not by his skill at managing his department like a blue chip share portfolio. No wonder then that it appears that transparency and results are obviously not high on the agenda and that the depressing conclusion is that nothing appears to have changed within Lebanon’s turgid political process.

This is how we see it. Please prove us wrong.