Li­cense to steal

Executive Magazine - - Editorial -

The Ot­tomans taught us too well. In ex­change for a min­i­mum level of free­dom, the rulers of the Em­pire em­pow­ered (and armed) lo­cal lead­ers and tasked them with col­lect­ing taxes. Pol­icy mak­ers and sta­bil­ity main­tain­ing were the do­main of the cen­tral gov­ern­ment in Con­stantino­ple. This worked bril­liantly for the Em­pire, but in the case of Le­banon, it helped cre­ate a mind­set that val­ued rent-seek­ing over pro­duc­tiv­ity. Hun­dreds of years later, we are a na­tion ruled by feu­dal tax col­lec­tors and have lost the pol­icy mak­ing and se­cu­rity that once came with it. Our po­lit­i­cal class has still not learned how to build, de­velop, and im­prove a na­tion, let alone build and bol­ster a pro­duc­tive econ­omy. Re­gret­tably, our po­lit­i­cal hi­er­ar­chy views the state as a cash-cow to milk. Noth­ing more.

Look no fur­ther than our tired roads, clogged with an ag­ing fleet of ve­hi­cles which con­trib­ute to the coun­try’s poor air qual­ity. Where is ur­ban plan­ning? Where is a co­or­di­nated and reg­u­lated pub­lic trans­port strat­egy? I would ven­ture and ask about elec­tric cars, but with a solidly un­re­li­able sup­ply of elec­tric­ity, the ques­tion an­swers it­self. Our lead­ers do not make pol­icy. They drain and ex­haust us with ever higher im­port taxes on new cars.

I fear that this sit­u­a­tion will not im­prove, even with the new pub­lic-pri­vate-part­ner­ship (PPP) law, which would have in­jected an en­er­giz­ing ray of hope for the trans­port sec­tor. We worry we won’t soon see a new era of na­tion-build­ing un­der the PPP law be­cause those who will im­ple­ment it are more con­cerned with de­vour­ing pay­offs than study­ing key per­for­mance in­di­ca­tors when it comes to pub­lic works. To ef­fec­tively ben­e­fit from PPPs, we need a new mind­set, not a new law.

Most wor­ry­ing is the fate of any oil and gas the coun­try may have. Politi­cians have been play­ing games with this not-yet-es­tab­lished sec­tor for years now. Those games will con­tinue, and the Le­banese peo­ple will be de­frauded as a re­sult.

Our politi­cians have pur­sued ex­trac­tive, not in­clu­sive, eco­nomic plan­ning–en­rich­ing them­selves and leav­ing the rest of us out in the cold.

Ed­i­tor-in-chief Yasser Akkaoui

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