The bigger picture

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No matter how much it hurts to see the constitution tinkered with, the extension of the presidential mandate should not be our main problem. At the end of day, these minor maneuverings (and they are very minor) are inconsequential in the region’s grand scheme, one that is driven by the heady whiff of economic rewards for those who fall into line. Lebanon is small country with a big debt, a Middle East backwater, driven by self-interest. We are missing the bigger picture.

Whatever they might think, our politicians are not real players. There is not one who bestrides the regional, let alone world, stage, so let’s drop the posturing and get on with the job at hand: getting the country out of its economic misery by creating an environment of political cooperation and consensus and setting an example of hard work and selflessness.

Instead of arguing over whose people get what jobs, we should argue over how to draft the national economic recovery program. National unity should replace personal greed and a ministerial portfolio should be a privilege, rather than an opportunity to build a pension plan.

This is the only way to regain the confidence of the international community. They know our leaders are high-profile, low-caliber operators. They will not be impressed with the imposition of a new presidential term however competent the incumbent and they will want to see results –privatization, transparency and civil service accountability to name a few – before they grant further soft loans.

Lebanon went to the last donor conference in Paris, took the money and left. Paris III is now mission impossible. The international community, now bitten will be more than shy; it will be downright obstinate before Lebanon’s whiny supplications. If we were to stand any chance of getting help, it was going to take a wholesale shake-up of our political landscape and this does not look likely given the perpetuity inferred by the presidential extension, hence the need for a genuine demonstration of willing to correct our economic woes.

And let us not forget the likes of Fitch and Moody’s, which will be carefully scrutinizing their rating of Lebanon. Political infighting was always seen as an entry in the negative column. If it gets any worse in the light of this recent edict, they will no doubt be swift to act.