Lebanon’s funny way of rebuilding the country

Although we caught glimpses of that earlier on, I kind of missed this detailed account of government’s ‘rebuilding efforts’ since the end of the war, found in the Daily Star (chapeau bas).
There is only one rationale for the logic followed by the government’s botching the reconstruction process: How to discredit Hezbollah by all means.
A couple of weeks ago, remember, the CDR chief resigned (although himself a partisan of the Mustaqbal party, the latter being part of the majority in power). This tells you how disgusted the man was of what was going on.
But to go back to Daily Star’s articles, Lisa Ohrstrom provides us with an interview of the guy (Fadl Shalak). Listen to the man speak:

“The way you reconstruct a country is not by handing out piles of cash,” Shalak told The Daily Star. “We need a master plan to rebuild damaged buildings in the southern suburbs,which Hizbullah said they would approve during the war. The government knows Hizbullah is not capable of handling the reconstruction on their own and even Hizbullah knows this.They think by delaying reconstruction they will undermine their support.”

That article was written on the 9th of October. Here is the government still “handing out piles of cash” a couple of days ago, or so they said they will do. And Ohrstrom continues:

Under Shalak’s leadership, the CDR drafted a fasttrack reconstruction plan during the conflict, which he claims Prime Minister Fouad Siniora refused to acknowledge. The proposal called for the government to immediately deploy engineering teams to heavily affected areas to compile exact measurements of damage for tender documents once the cease-fire went into effect.Then a list of approved contractors and unit prices were to be posted on the Internet and companies invited to bid. Shalak says most of the infrastructure could have been repaired within a year, excluding the largest bridges, and residential units within two or three, had this strategy been adopted.

Oh and this:

Shalak also claims to have exaggerated the infrastructure losses in CDR’s initial damage assessment under pressure from the government.“The numbers they presented at the donor conference were

, rebuilding infrastructure doesn’t need $900 million.We inflated the damages,” Shalak said. He estimates infrastructure losses at $500-$600 million, though the CDR’s initial assessment said direct losses were at least $1 billion. “We were pressured,” Shalak said.“They wanted the money to pay down the budget deficit.”

This does not surprise me at all. I worked for a Lebanese ministry last year and the prevailing policy of the government for the country was very simple: let’s do everything we can to get as much money as possible (meaning changing numbers sometimes) to stitch things up without engaging in any act that would involve political cost (meaning administrative and legal reforms, long-term economic planning, etc).

The rest of the page (containing other articles) is very informative on the governmnent’s immature stance towards vital development needs. It seems that the Daily Star is doing some good work in every domain now (Ghazal’s political and social investigative articles, and now Ohrstrom and others in this Lebanon’s examiner page). Then it would not be surprising to find out that its owner and chief “opinionators” (of the Michael Young breed) are not reading it anymore!

It is very sad to see that the biggest enemy of the Lebanese are not the US nor Israel, nor Syria for that matter, but the Lebanese themselves. Lebanon gives you the best therapeutic example of not looking for the enemy outside. It is only by ignoring the enemy inside that you end up creating enemies outside and empowering them. In this way, Lebanon – for the citizen who wants to be introspective – can teach a very good lesson of humility. Seriously.

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5 Replies to “Lebanon’s funny way of rebuilding the country”

  1. I may not get the intent of your comment. But yes this is an interesting and highly informative article by all means that one should read.

  2. Hizballah started the war. They should pay for reconstruction.

    It is only fair.

    The job of the government should be to collect the usual bribes to speed the reconstruction.

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