On March 27, before addressing an auditorium filled with our best scholars, academics, researchers, journalists, intellectuals, and experts who have dedicated their lives for this nation, I asked if any of them was granted access to or had seen or even touched one page of the Capital Investment Plan (CIP) CEDRE project—the answer was a unanimous “NO.” The rest of the conference, which was titled “Enhancing Domestic Accountability in Lebanon in Light of CEDRE Conference,” organized by Issam Fares Institute and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, was a succession of inspirational but frustrated presentations on what should be done to save Lebanon.
The CIP was eight months in the making and was endorsed by the cabinet on March 21. The CIP and a vision document for stabilization, growth, and employment that included ideas for reform were posted online seven days before CEDRE as Executive went to print, which did not allow time for a full evaluation. The McKinsey report on Lebanon’s productive sectors did not make it online. The rushed and opaque manner in which these pillars have been prepared is alarming.
We live for the day when the role of civil society organizations is reinforced and their rights respected. We have a seat at the table because we, the citizens—the owners—need to monitor the practices of our self-entitled politicians who have manipulated our trust and mismanaged our resources for decades. It is not a privilege to have that seat; it is a right. When it is treated as a privilege, and accepted as such, we shall be as corrupt as the establishment itself.
For 20 years, no one has called for the realization of each one of the projects that are now included in the CIP as much as this magazine. No one called for the adoption and implementation of reforms as much as we did, and no one has been a witness of our government’s disregard to these appeals as much as we have. So forgive us for our frustration, but we are not seeing, or getting assurances, that this call for reforms is authentic. And as long as it does not fall within the framework of inclusiveness and participation, citizens will find it difficult to swallow the legitimacy of our government.
It’s unfortunate, but we are only left with the hope that the World Bank, the IMF, the UN and its agencies, will help donor countries learn from the past and go beyond their political motivations to help institutionalize our government’s commitment to best practices.
We remain ambitious, positive, and naive. Let’s hope for the best.