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Shooting blind, from the hip

Lebanon’s government doesn’t know what the minimum wage should be

by Yasser Akkaoui

The current Lebanese government is, in economic terms, as dangerous as a blind man with a loaded gun and an itchy trigger finger.

To date, it has shown little to no leadership in guiding Lebanon’s floundering economy back to prosperity, offering no comprehensive strategy to promote sustainable growth across the different job-creating industries — be they financial, service-related, manufacturing or agricultural. Instead what the government has offered is ill-considered, quick-fix patches. Cabinet’s commitment last month to raise wages for workers in lower income brackets by an arbitrary amount would be in the same category, if it were not also actually counter-productive to the ends it is purportedly trying to meet.   

Let’s be clear: With the rising prices it has become effectively impossible to achieve a decent standard of living earning the current minimum wage. However, the equation for setting the new optimal minimum wage requires knowing a few basic numbers ­— none of which the government has: It has developed no capacity to monitor wage rates or income distribution across the country, has no labor force or household surveys and no employer surveys. In other words the government has no idea what the optimal wage increase would be, and no clue as to the impact of its proposed minimum wage increase on either employees or employers.

Concurrently, since the beginning of this new government’s term, the country has experienced zero economic growth, meaning private sector businesses are already struggling. Forcing them to raise wages 40 percent overnight without offering the prospect of recouping these costs through new growth will result in employee layoffs and employer insolvencies.

This country should not have its major policy decisions taken by shoot-from-the-hip politicians who haven’t the faintest idea what they are aiming at.

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Yasser Akkaoui

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

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