How Corruption in Lebanon Remains

My hometown, Ebrine, and the Batroun region overall, have been “plagued” over the past few months with an ambitious developmental project to establish a sewage and water pipe network. The former pipes are supposed to connect houses to treatment facilities, the first of their kind in the country. The latter pipes are supposed to increase and make water distribution more efficient across the region.

To that effect, relevant governmental bodies hired contractors. To say the contractor chosen for the project has been doing a crappy job would be the understatement of the year. Take a look at these pictures (link) to know what we’re going through.

Coupled with the lack of competence is a serious lack of efficiency and waste of resources. They finish a section of a road, wait a couple of months to actually lay down some asphalt, make us enjoy the patches for a week or two and then dig it again because they remembered they need to lay down some other pipes. And repeat asphalt-less process.

The question that I asked repeatedly was the following: how did our government accept to hire someone as incompetent as that contractor  to do a project as ambitious as the one at hand?

But the contractor in question is but one example of what happens around this country to perpetuate the entrenched corruption in governance. How they do that is fairly simple.

Take a look at this very interesting report by Executive Magazine (link) about Lebanon’s debt, now around $60 billion. The most interesting part to me in that report, which confirmed what I had previously heard about these contracting jobs, is the following:

Most public debt is held by Lebanese individuals and institutions. While approximately 20 percent is held by foreign governments and multilateral institutions, nearly 80 percent is held by bond and note holders.

The contractor handling the project in my region is one of those people. Our government owes him so much money that they cannot not give him the projects he asks for and pay him money to “execute” them. The execution plan – at least in my hometown and region – went in the following way:

  1. Make sure you get the project from the government.
  2. Get paid a huge amount some of which the government may not be able to pay and increase the debt loop.
  3. Find a cheaper contractor who’s willing to do the job for a fraction of the money. In our case, a little investigation revealed the project wasn’t done by the contractor mentioned previously but by a Syrian contractor who got hired to do the job.
  4. Give that subcontractor a ridiculously low amount of money.
  5. Sit back and relax and try to watch as politicians try to save face.

Those Lebanese individuals to whom the state is indebted with approximately $45 billion keep our governments hostage to their power: if they want certain projects, they get them. If they want certain policies passed, the policies will pass. If they want anything to happen, it will happen. And the merry goes round in other regions, in different ways and forms.

So next time you feel like investing copious amounts of money in this country, invest them in making the government owe you money.

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