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September-October 2016

The launch of the new era of infrastructure

(*) original text edited in Arabic

 

Now that we have a president, let us increase our demands and requests!  Anyone who reads and hears the media messages in the last days will be taken by this avalanche of requests as if all of a sudden the doors should open on the achievements the Lebanese have been dreaming of since independence! They dream of accomplishing them in the speed of lightning too!!!.

People are entitled to all this optimism with the beginning of a new era, and in particular with this era! It came from the heart of a national consensus which is almost universal. It is surrounded by sufficient regional and international blessings and they are expected to grow gradually.

The aspirations expressed by the Lebanese in the media have no limits!. They want a modern election law in the sense that opens the way to the right and balanced representation. They desire perfect performance which is characterized by administrative efficiency and integrity. And we forget that the administrative reforms promised decades ago are buried in drawers.  We need to remind that thousands of employees or better still contractual staffs, with no real qualifications or skills, have been hired thanks to nepotism and favoritism. Furthermore, these policies have divested the administrative and public institutions from qualified human resources. The notion of integrity has become a joke! Even politicians talk about corruption but to no avail. No one is being held accountable thanks to legalizing corruption. The Lebanese also want to reduce immigration, the migration of young women and men to nearby and faraway markets to seek work.

How can we achieve this goal without having sufficient growth rates to absorb the Lebanese employment and with no adoption of efficient and professional standards instead of resorting to cliental mentality and appalling and costly sectarian quotas in the public sector and its institutions as well as the relations between the citizen and the State.

The Lebanese are looking forward with the beginning of the new era, and this is their right, to live in a clean environment with minimal air and sea pollution and minimal pollution caused by garbage and waste generators. They are randomly administered at a very high environmental and human cost. These unacceptable practices also lead to higher health bill and shortening people's lives and the deterioration of the quality of human life, vegetation, ground water and even on the surface. All of these are legitimate aspirations and we assume that the new era and government would give undivided attention to these demands.

The president’s oath speech has touched on these aspirations both explicitly and implicitly. However, to achieve these goals require vision and program of action that determine the priorities and model of distribution of cost fairly on the components of the society, each according to its capacity. Thus, the regions and some categories of citizen will not complain that they bear the burden of taxes, while other categories and regions benefit from the largest share of public spending.

The talk about priorities drags us to what is pressing and what is more pressing. The arrangement of the priorities is not only a technical issue but has a social dimension as well. It is important that the same segments of the society do not always pay the bills so that other segments benefit from the generosity of the state. The new era can greatly reduce this disparity, and this imbalance in this gap in the financing of public spending and the direction of this public spending.

During the past two decades and since the Taëf Accord, many plans and under different names and designations were adopted by different actors, including the Council for Development and Reconstruction. They all ended in oblivion and neglect, either for lack of seriousness or for the lack of realism, and thus financing, or finally because those behind these plans wanted to brag that they had action and reconstruction program.

To avoid big arguments and grand ambitions and to avoid burdening the new era and government beyond their capacity, we say as the Economic Bodies that the first priority is to rehabilitate and develop the infrastructure through the CDR.

So simply as that!.  It is time to address the electricity issue (Let's leave aside the oil!), starting from a new board and director all the way to the high and low voltage cables to the smart counters and  the modern production plants on gas.

Rehabilitating the electricity sector does not need more than two years to accomplish. This task can be completed through the adoption of "build, operate and transfer" BOT or agreements from state to state, but financed through long-term loans with very low interest rate in line with the prevailing global rates along with benefiting as well from the grace periods granted by the relevant international financial institutions like the World Bank, the International Finance Corporation, the Arab development funds and the European investment Bank.

What applies to electricity projects applies to the rest of the infrastructure like the telecommunications infrastructure, including the capacities and speeds of the Internet and the fixed line network and cellular companies. Electricity and telecommunications sectors contribute to solving dilemmas, which we mentioned earlier. This will help the creation of jobs for young people and address the issue of pollution and cleaner environment.

Bringing new management to the CDR which enjoys required professionalism, dynamism and integrity in this new phase is the entrance to the rehabilitation and development of infrastructure.

It is worth noting that the loan agreements exist and it is necessary to expand and activate them.  The infrastructure development is an entrance to acceptable growth rates of the national economy.  Public investment in infrastructure will encourage foreign and Lebanese private investment in various economic activities and sectors. The weak growth rates in recent years are mainly due to the weakness and lack of efficient and adequate investments. Rehabilitating the electricity and telecom sectors despite its importance and urgency, should not obscure the human and social infrastructure, and by this we mean education as well as social security both in health and pension fields.

These infrastructures require full attention and devotion by the concerned parties, experts, policy makers, administrations and to focus as well on the mechanism of implementing these goals.

Time is precious and pressing element. Governments come and go at a blink of an eye. This also applies to the new era.

From here came the idea of ​​the first hundred days of the reign of governments and presidencies.  If the government was formed in twenty days and until gaining the confidence of the House of Representatives, 40 days would have passed from the date of the oath, or more than the third of the 100 days.  The political class should stop wasting time and start working as soon as possible! ...

 

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Last Updated on November 18, 2016
 
 
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