Maroun Kisirwani


Published In
Remaking the Middle East

Edited by
Paul J. White and William S. Logan

Oxford New York

The fierce fighting that engulfed Lebanon for fifteen years, starting from 1975, left deep scars in some of its institutions and crippled others. Of a total population of three million, over 150,000 were killed, 300,000 were displaced, and approximately half a million emigrated. As the war intensified, society was increasingly dismantled and divided on confessional grounds, as were its social, political, administrative and military institutions. The prosperity that the country had known before the war was destroyed, and its infrastructure was devastated. The physical destruction of residential and industrial areas was immense.

After fifteen years of continuous destruction of human and material resources, the country was ready for any reasonable settlement to end the prolonged blood bath and a socially, economically and politically crippling war. A political accord known as the T'aif Agreement was finally drawn up in 1989, by Lebanese politicians, in the Saudi city of T'aif, under Saudi patronage, with the blessing of the United States and with Syrian approval (The Economist, 20 October 1990).

To a war-weary population desperate to end its prolonged misery and the appalling destruction of its country, the T'aif Agreement certainly appeared as a great relief and an important and necessary step towards reuniting the country and rehabilitating and reconstructing its institutions (Salibi, 1988: 3). Yet the agreement which is credited for ending the war and introducing accommodating changes to the political system has left behind serious socio-economic problems and a political maze with which the country continues to struggle. The unsettled problems have led to genuine disappointment among major Christian groups, and consequently to their withdrawal from political affairs. The Gulf War of 1990, which drained the Gulf states financially, forced these states to default on their financial commitment of US$2,000 million for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the Lebanon. Thus, after approximately seven years since the signing of T'aif Agreement, the country remains politically precarious, and its reconstruction continues to stagger.

The aim of this chapter is to investigate the efforts that the Lebanese state has been exerting towards the rehabilitation and reconstruction of its political, administrative and economic system, and the restraints it has encountered in the process. Although the three systems - the political, the administrative and the economic - are interrelated and interdependent, each will be treated separately. What will be examined, firstly, is the dynamics of the current political system and their impact on the establishment of a permanently viable state. Next, an attempt is made to assess the scope and intensity of the economic destruction caused by the war, and the financing required for economic recovery. Third, the paper investigates the post-war capabilities of the bureaucracy, which is primarily responsible for the implementation of the rehabilitation and reconstruction scheme.

The Quest for a Viable Political Structure

Modern Lebanon was established in 1920 under the tutelage of France, the mandatory power over Lebanon and Syria, following the defeat of Turkey in the First World War. Prior to this period, and for approximately four centuries, the Lebanese political system, which functioned under Ottoman tutelage, had known various structures with varying degrees of semi-autonomous status, depending on the military power of the local prince or governor and his relationship with the Ottoman authorities.

The semi-autonomous status of the Lebanese province came to an end in 1915, when the region was placed under direct Ottoman rule during the First World War. It remained in this position until 1918,when Syria and Lebanon were occupied by the Allies (Longring, 1958: 65). On 25 April 1920 the Allied Supreme Council granted France a mandate over Syria and Lebanon, and on 31 August of the same year the French High Commissioner declared the establishment of Greater Lebanon. The territory of the old province of Lebanon was extended to its present boundaries by adding the coastal regions of Beirut, Sidon, Tyre and Tripoli, as well as the Bekaa Valley (Longring, 1958: 376).

Since its inception in 1920, the modern state of Lebanon faced internal confessional conflicts as well as regional claims by parts of its territory both of which have constituted factors contributing to the country's political instability and military confrontations. Both the Lebanese Muslims and Syria opposed the establishment of Greater Lebanon from the very start. The Muslims questioned the legitimacy of the new state and their own citizenship in it, and demanded the return to Syria of the annexed regions, which were largely Muslim in population. Syria claimed that the annexed territories were Syrian territories that had remained under effective Syrian control. The Maronites, who were the largest Christian community, declined to accept any changes, affirming that the boundaries of the new geopolitical unit constituted the natural frontiers of Lebanon (Naamani, 1982: 65).

The categorically opposing views of the religious communities and the Syrian rejection of the new frontiers of Lebanon led to an exchange of serious accusations, which kept the country in a state of frequent confrontations and turmoil. The Muslims accused the Maronites of pursuing policies that aimed at isolating Lebanon from Syria and the Arab hinterland, and on one occasion consequently submitted a written memorandum to the French High Commission calling for unity with Syria. Also, a delegation of Muslim notables visited Damascus, pleading with the Syrian authorities to incorporate into the Syrian constitution an article laying claim to the Muslim districts of Lebanon. Although the Mandatory power subdued the Muslim requests and dissolved the Syrian constitutional assembly that issued a constitution 'including articles claiming Lebanese territory, the dispute over the question of the territorial integrity of Lebanon and the legitimacy of the Lebanese state as established remained far from settled (Lenezowski, 1952: 233).

While ideological conflicts and opposing political outlooks persisted among the communal groups during the Mandate period, the first conciliatory breakthrough in communal relationships came with independence in 1943, when a power-sharing political arrangement, known as the National Pact, was reached between Christians and Muslin-is. The Pact sought an end to the Sunni-Muslim demand for unity with Syria, or any Arab state, in exchange for the Maronite Christians' relinquishing French protection. The National Pact had the positive aim of putting an end to the conflicting communal outlooks by recognising the full and complete independence of Lebanon from both East and West, affirming its national identity as part of the Arab World, and denying any concession or privileged position for any foreign state.

The pact provided the newly independent state with a period of relative stability and prosperity, but was often ignored before the 1958 civil war by both Christians and Muslims. The pact collapsed completely with the beginning of the 1975 turbulence (Salem, 1991: 76). As the war intensified, the state was divided into warning camps, with the majority of Christians on one side and the Muslim and Palestinian groups on the other. Each group sought, and actually received, political, financial and military support from foreign nations. The causes of the tragic developments that pervaded Lebanon for fifteen years are as varied and numerous as the hundreds of scholars and statesmen who tried to unfold the riddles and make sense out of a chaotic situation that involved local, regional and international players simultaneously, albeit pursuing different objectives. Each group involved in the conflict, directly or by proxy, had its own objectives, and history a- lone may uncover the real causes of the Lebanese war. In the midst of confusing interpretations of the causes of Lebanon's war one fact seems certain; namely, that communal tensions have been, and remain, easy targets for manipulation by local and foreign forces alike to achieve their respective personal objectives at the expense of the general interest of Lebanon as a nation-state. During the last phases of the war, the Muslim demand for a more equitable power-sharing arrangement resurfaced, with the claim that the National Pact of 1943 had become obsolete and inequitable. The T'aif Agreement was the culmination of several earlier endeavours to bring a cessation to hostilities through a new power-sharing arrangement. The often-expressed assumption that the T'aif Agreement had established a viable political settlement remains questionable; and, consequently, political rehabilitation remains precarious.

Pitfalls of the T'aif Agreement

Though the T'aif Agreement put an end to the war, it failed to end political conflicts and meet the aspirations of all communal groups. Paul Salem (1991) provides a balance sheet of the main points of the agreement, along with the major arguments surrounding them. Salem's account (Salem, 1991: 77-8) of the fundamental changes dealing with internal political reform includes the following:

  1. Executive authority was shifted from the Maronite President of the Republic to the Council of Ministers, thus rendering the government one of collegiate decision-making, and stripping the president of most of his executive powers by reducing him 'to a largely ceremonial figure who reigns but does not rule'.
  2. The Sunni post of Prime Minister became the central position in the affairs of government, since the holder of this post 'controls the agenda of the Council of Ministers and oversees the daily operations of the state bureaucracy'. In addition, his appointment and dismissal is no longer under the control of the Maronite President, as was the case before. The Prime Minister can now be removed only by a decision of the parliament.
  3. The Shi'ite post of speaker of Parliament was also strengthened 'by extending its term to four years and centrally involving the speaker in designating a Prime Minister'.
  4. Equality of representation between Christians and Muslims was established, replacing the old formula, which gave the Christians a representational edge over Muslims.
  5. The abolition of political confessionalism is, according to the T'aif Agreement, a fundamental national goal, along with the establishment of universal social and economic justice.

The internal political reforms introduced by the T'aif Agreement into the Lebanese Constitution represent a new start in interconfessional relationships in Lebanon - a start that is not without its inherent dangers and serious threats to the revival of the state and, consequently, to the rehabilitation and reconstruction process that is now under way. Among the dangers that have already become apparent in the new political structure, two appear to be the most significant. Firstly, there is a growing complaint among the Christians that the state, according to the new Constitution that stripped the Maronite President of his executive powers, is currently dominated by a Sunni Prime Minister and a Shi'ite Speaker of Parliament, to the disadvantage of the Christians in general. This complaint represents the opposite extreme to the old Muslim complaint that the state, under the National Pact of 1943, was dominated by a Maronite President to the disadvantage of other groups (Salem, 1991: 77-8). If the Muslims' dissatisfaction with the old political formula had deprived the state of stability, national identity and national consensus for several decades, then the Christian dissatisfaction with the new political framework is likely to lead to similar paralysis and political instability within Lebanon, unless remedial measures are introduced to provide a fair and equitable power-sharing structure.

Secondly, the majority of Christians boycotted the first parliamentary elections under the new constitution, in protest against the reluctance of the Syrian forces to withdraw from western parts of Lebanon within two years of the enactment of the political reforms, as ordained in the T'aif Agreement. This reluctance to withdraw and redeploy in the Bekaa Valley, in addition to the absence of any commitment, as yet, to a full Syrian withdrawal from the country, intensified the fears of the Christians of permanent Syrian domination; and, consequently, they had doubts about the guaranteeing of free and democratic elections. Yet, the elections were held, and Christians were elected to occupy the parliamentary seats allotted to them. Real representation of the Christian community, however, was absent, since most of the recognised leaders either boycotted the elections or remained outside the country.

In concluding this part of the chapter on the political structure since the T'aif Agreement and its impact on the rehabilitation and reconstruction process, one may venture the opinion that as long as a majority of the Christians, including those who supported T'aif, continue to express genuine frustration with the new system, feeling that the agreement was negotiated under duress and that its implementation was skewed to suppress them, political rehabilitation as a process of reviving the state through the reconstitution of a unified political culture and a national identity is not likely to be achieved in the near future.

Economic Collapse

The Lebanese economy has traditionally been marked by liberalism and a laissez-faire economy - a trait that to some extent accounts for the prosperity that Lebanon had experienced prior to the war. A further partial explanation for the former economic prosperity of Lebanon, other than its laissez-faire system, is that it could be attributed to the effects of various overall political and economic developments in the region. The occupation of Palestine in 1948, the closure of the Suez Canal in 1967, the nationalisation and socialisation of economies in several Arab countries and the oil boom of 1973 have all contributed to the economic development of Lebanon, though to varying degrees (LCPS, 1992: 26).

These developments led to the transfer of human and material resources to Lebanon, and this, in turn, transformed the country into the banking, education, hospitalisation and tourism centre of the Middle East. Lebanon's success during this period of favourable circumstances, however, was also attributable to a number of skills and traits that the country and its people have provided. Paramount among these skills are its laissez-faire economic system, its entrepreneurial spirit, an educated labour force exposed to both Arab and Western culture, the absence of currency exchange controls, a well-developed banking sector and good transport and telecommunications facilities. These facilities, along with regional developments, attracted many Western firms to Beirut, which served as their base for regional and international trade and services (International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 1).

The per capita GDP in 1973 amounted to US$940, a figure surpassed in the region only by some of the oil states, Cyprus and Israel. The sectoral composition of the GDP in this period revealed that the bulk of the economic activities (58 per cent) were in trade and nonfinancial services, such as transport, rents, health and education services (Table 4. 1).

While economists agree that Lebanon's economy was growing in the pre-war period at an average compound rate of 6.8 per cent, raising per capita real national income at a yearly average of 4.3 per cent, they differ in their interpretation of this remarkable growth and its social and political repercussions. One view asserts that the economic growth 'did not come from any coherent development strategy carried out by the public sector, nor were the fruits of this growth evenly distributed among the different categories of the population' (Awad, 1991: 82). The high dependence, according to this view, on the service sector, the absence of a dynamic role for the public sector and a well-designed developmental policy 'led to socio-economic imbalances and strains which contributed to the breakdown of the socio-political order and the outbreak of civil strife' (Awad, 1991: 85). While the country's economy was growing, it was not developing, according to this view, because the benefits of growth were heavily concentrated in one sector - the tertiary sector, and especially trade. Table 4.2 shows per capita income in Lebanon by economic sector in 1970. Regardless of the imbalance in the distribution of income clearly shown in Table 4.2, the pre-war Lebanese economy was managing well until the Israeli invasion in 1982 and the events of 1984, which constituted a major turning-point (al-Khalil, 1992: 85).


Table 4.1. Sectoral Composition of GDP, 1973

Sector Percentage Percentage

Agriculture 9.3


Industry 14.4


Construction 4.4


Utilities 2


Trade (including Hotels/Restaurants) 31.7 of which:



Transport 7.2



Rents 8.6



Others (health, education, etc.) 11.3
Non-Financial Services 27.1


Financial Services 4


Public Administration 7.1


source: International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 2.


The pre-war growth of the Lebanese economy was, therefore, steady and relatively healthy. It was the war that wrecked its foundations. The massive destruction of the country's infrastructure, following the Israeli invasion in 1982; the huge damage inflicted on agriculture, industry, and the service sector; the loss and impairment of human resources; all these had detrimental effects on the Lebanese economy (al-Khalil, 1992: 85). As the war intensified, not only was Lebanon cut off from the rest of the world, but also the destruction of its human and material resources was immense, and its infrastructure was crippled (LCPS, 1992: 27).

The heaviest blow to the economy, however, came with the beginning of 1984, when the army was split, the state lost control of the capital and other areas of the country to the militias, and lawlessness began to prevail. The economy was then completely exhausted, as the public revenues were cut off, the GNP continually contracting and the public sector expenditures steady. The state was forced to finance its budget through deficit financing, mainly by printing money and borrowing from the private sector. By the early 1990s, the state had accumulated a public debt of over US$4,000 million, which contributed to the devaluation of the Lebanese pound from US$1.00 = LP 3.00 in 1975 , to US$1.00= LP 2,750 in October 1992. This economic plunge was accompanied by skyrocketing inflation of over 500 per cent, excessive destruction of residential and industrial areas, industrial stagnation, and phenomenal devastation of electricity and telecommunication infrastructures (LCPS, 1992: 30).

In brief, the economic consequences of the war could be grouped into three broad areas. First, the destruction of productive facilities and infrastructures. Second, indirect damages caused by the failure to renew capital assets and to develop human resources. Third, the migration overseas of hundreds of thousands of the educated élite and of skilled manpower, which resulted in a great loss to the country (International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 2).


Table 4.2. Per Capita Income by Sector in 1970

Sector Per Capita Income $ Per Capita Incease as of % of GDP Sector as % of Population

Agriculture 175 9.1 33
Industry 503 18.1 23
Services 1,256 72.8 44

Source: adapted from Awad, 1991: 14.


The National Reconstruction Programme

On 8 June 1991 the first step in an arduous journey for the rehabilitation, reconstruction and development of Lebanon began. The Lebanese government, represented by the Council of Development and Reconstruction (CDP,), and the Hariri Foundation entered into an agreement with International Bechtel Incorporated and Dar Al-Handasah Consultants for providing consulting services for 'Recovery Planning for the Reconstruction and Development of Lebanon' (International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 3).

Bechtel and Dar Al-Handasah prepared extensive reports and working papers covering all aspects and strategies pertaining to the reconstruction process, culminating in a grand plan labelled Horizon 2000 for Reconstruction and Development. Some of the proposed strategies, whose foundations would be laid during the course of the reconstruction programme, would come into effect around the year 2003 and beyond. The long-term alms of these strategies were to maximise income growth, minimise income distribution disparities, and increase social cohesion.

Lebanon's recovery programme, according to the Bechtel and Dar Al-Handasah study, presents an opportunity to recreate and reposition the nation advantageously for the future. The reconstruction period affords Lebanon the chance to engage in thinking about the future and pro-active planning (International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 1). The six strategies that are intended for implementation by the private sector, operating within a free market, concentrate on the development of tourism, agriculture, ruche industries, higher education, Lebanon's geographic and cultural position as the 'bridge' between Europe and Arabia, and the development of 'consultancy and knowledge-based service industries'. All the strategies, however, presume the success of the reconstruction programme and look beyond its initial economic growth (International Bechtel, 1992 (42): 1). The question, however, remains: what are the chances for the success of the rehabilitation and reconstruction programme?

A pivotal role in preparing the plan Horizon 2000 for the Reconstruction and Development of Lebanon was entrusted to the CDR. In co-operation with Bechtel and Dar Al-Handasah and a number of local and foreign firms, the Horizon 2000 plan was finalised and subnutted by the CDP, to the Council of Ministers in February 1993, with a total cost of US$10,995 million (at current fix-ed prices reaching US$12,900 million over a ten-year period). Table 4.3 shows the estimated cost per sector.

Financing the Programme

The Bechtel and Dar al-Handasah study has recommended a number of fiscal and monetary measures for the Lebanese government to introduce for financing the Horizon 2000 plan, and concluded by identifying three major financing sources. First is the surplus from the Lebanese national budget that is expected to be achieved by the beginning of 1996. Secondly, internal borrowing through treasury bills I could be used to cover unfinanced local costs' (International Bechtel, 1993 (37): 1). Thirdly, foreign financing would be obtained from various donors and financial institutions; this would consist of funds provided either on an outright grant basis, or concessional loans, or a mix of grants and loans (Bashir, 1994 (42): 67).

In terms of expenditure stages and financing sources, the plan recognises the following three periods. First, the rehabilitation period (1993-5), which is expected to cost US$2,700 million in current prices, the money to be secured from internal borrowing (13 per cent), grants (21 per cent), and external borrowing (66 per cent). Second, the reconstruction period (1996-8), which is expected to cost US$4,000 million in current prices, the money to be secured from national budget surplus (38 per cent), external grants (10 per cent) and external borrowing (52 per cent). Third, the development period (1999-2003), which is expected to cost US$6,200 million in current prices, the money to be secured from national budget surplus (65 per cent), external borrowing (31 per cent), and external grants (4 per cent). The figures that have been quoted above, used when the plan was submitted to the Council of Ministers in February 1993, are already being reconsidered, and CDP, sources were, by November, 1993, estimating that the total cost would reach US$17,700 million in current prices, and that the rehabilitation phase was expected to cost US$3,200 million, instead of the US$2,700 million estimated earlier (Bashir, 1994 (42): 68).


Table 4.3. Lebanon's Ten-Year Reconstruction Programme 1992-2003

Sector Cost (Million US$)

Electricity 1,800
Health 825
Waste Management 180
Communications 620
Transport 2,845
Water 415
Education 1,135
Social Welfare 600
Agriculture 585
Industry 350
Fuel Oil 70
Services 300
Public Buildings 170
Management 150
Housing 950
Total 10,995

Source: Republic of Lebanon, 1992.


This ambitious scheme for financing Lebanon's reconstruction requirements rests on a number of long-range political, administrative, economic and monetary assumptions that are, to say the least, precarious. Among the strategies recommended for maximising external assistance is that Lebanon should assure donors that the security situation in the country has improved enough to allow the implementation of assistance programmes, and that its debt service to the donor countries will be paid on time (International Bechtel, 1993: 37: 1). Lebanon is in no position to extend such a 'warranty' while its political security is subject to regional and international developments beyond its control. Likewise, the government confidence that the financial requirements for implementing the Horizon 2000 plan would be secured is not substantiated by the funds that have been externally committed, in contrast to those that have materialised internally. The T'aif Agreement provided, seven years ago, for the creation of an International Fund for the assistance of Lebanon, during which the signatories pledged to pay over US$2,000 million as initial capital. Yet hardly US$300 million has been paid so far. Finally, the implementation of such an ambitious plan, even if the political and economic variables were favourable, would still depend on the existence of a public bureaucracy capable of coping with such a task.

Bureaucratic Disintegration and Revitalisation

Lebanon's bureaucracy has been shaped both by indigenous cultural and political traditions and by the long history of Ottoman and, later, French domination. Despite strong French influence on formal structures, however, the Lebanese bureaucracy, in practice, is quite different from the French, as might be expected, considering the great differences between the two societies. French society is modem, and its institutions possess a common cultural tradition and national identity. Lebanon is a transitional society, with many traditional elements. It is relatively undifferentiated in its social institutions, encompasses a number of different and often conflicting cultural traditions, and possesses a much weaker sense of national identity.

Informally, the Lebanese bureaucracy is built on the principle of sectarianism. This stems from the National Pact of 1943, which allocated political and governmental positions among Lebanon's different religious groups. The principle of sectarian representation is also found in the composition of parliament, the army and the bureaucracy, and encompasses seventeen officially recognised sects.

The Lebanese bureaucracy also differs from the 'Ideal type1 in two conunon practices of great political importance: the granting of favourable treatment by bureaucrats on the basis of political loyalty, family influence, class or sect; and the charging of a cash gratuity by officials for government services (Kisirwani and Parle, 1987: 1-2). These forms of bureaucratic pathology are of great significance in a conflict-prone society, where these practices have helped to make bureaucratic performance a continuing political issue. Most Lebanese view these practices as corrupt and undesirable, yet despite the pre-war reform efforts of over three decades, they have persisted (Kisirwani, 1992: 32). Corruption, sectarianism and subservience to political influence are, by themselves, formidable obstacles that would undermine the effective and efficient performance of the daily routine work of the bureaucracy. With the additional pathologies and the dismantling of the bureaucracy, along with the increased responsibilities, of the post-war era, the role of the bureaucracy in the rehabilitation and reconstruction process is critical.

The civil war period severely impaired the ability of the Lebanese bureaucracy to function, but by no means destroyed it (Kisirwani, 1992: 29-42). Generally speaking, the major functions of a public bureaucracy are the provision of infrastructure, the production and delivery of public services, and the maintenance of social order. The most visible impact of the conflict over the civil war years was the inability of the bureaucracy to maintain order and to provide security. The conflict rendered the army and the courts unable to function.

Among the most serious effects of the war that dominated Lebanon were the erosion of hierarchical authority, increased problems of coordination among and between administrative units, considerable loss of personnel, the inability of the over-sight agencies to perform their functions, the loss of much of the professional workforce and a decline in employee professionalism and career attachments, and an increase in the prevalence of economic corruption and the use of political and personal influence (Kisirwani, 1992: 33).

The foundations of the bureaucracy were destroyed, and its machinery was dismantled. Yet its destruction does not appear to have been a major goal of any of the contending factions. For the most part, the governmental bureaucracy was permitted to operate, albeit in limited way, in areas under the armed control of the different factions. This led to some bizarre incidents. For example, on several occasions in Beirut, temporary ceasefires were called during the fighting so that government workers could enter the contested area to repair damaged power and telephone lines, or to cash their wages at the end of each month.

This does not imply that the combatants always acted neutrally with respect to the bureaucracy. The Lebanese factions did exert considerable influence on the activities of the bureaucracy in areas that they controlled until 1990; but they stopped short of dismantling it. The most serious challenge to the bureaucracy occurred in East Beirut and the Shuf Mountains. In these districts, the factional organisations collected 'taxes' and provided some types of services, such as street cleaning, rubbish collection and food distribution. But these efforts seemed to have been supplementary and temporary in nature, not permanent replacements for governmental activity. In 1977, when a settlement of the conflict seemed imminent, the militias in all districts indicated a willingness to restore to the central government certain collective functions they had assumed and to dissolve some local government structures they had established. In 1989, they allowed the government to establish control over the ports that they had built or controlled. By 1990, the Lebanese government had succeeded in reestablishing its administrative control over most of the country in accordance with the settlement reached at T'aif

During the more intense years of the conflict, the government leadership found itself unable to enforce decisions by the bureaucracy and unable to guarantee the personal safety of officials who made unpopular but correct decisions. Ultimately it was even unable to enforce its own rules of conduct against officials with political connections. Consequently, in these areas of activity, the political leadership eventually gave up, perceiving no action to be possible. Bureaucratic forms were maintained: most employees continued to report for work; salaries continued to be paid; committees met; paperwork was maintained. Confrontation with the political groups and their armed wings was by and large avoided. In less controversial areas, the bureaucracy continued to function, but suffered. difficulties arising from lack of co-ordination.

Generally, the government attempted to take advantage of periods of relative calm, perceiving them as opportunities to reassert its authority. During these periods, also, high-level political and administrative leaders would make public statements announcing the restoration of normal activities. During these periods, also, administrative rulings or circulars would be issued to government employees. These directives would exhort employees to return to their jobs on a regular basis, and also inform them that various rules of conduct that might have been overlooked as a result of the conflict were now reinstated and were not to be ignored. In short, efforts could be made on these occasions to promote the notion of an impending return to normalcy. On the whole, however, these efforts met with only limited success. In fact, the bureaucracy guaranteed its survival during those difficult periods by tacitly abandoning many of its formal rules for the sake of expediency. For example, employees were allowed to transfer to safer government offices closer to their residence, often on their own initiative. Even government officials who were out of the country remained on the employment rolls and continued to receive salaries and salary rises. Almost no one was fired or forced to resign.

Even the practice of condoning widespread economic and political corruption had a functional aspect. Although it had badly tarnished the image of the bureaucracy, it kept employees on the job. The small salaries paid to lower- level officials might not have provided the necessary economic incentive for many to remain with the civil service. Only at higher levels were some officials provided with the incentive of potentially accumulating substantial wealth if they stayed in their jobs. Otherwise, bureaucrats imposed a gratuity as a kind of personal tax on any public transaction.

Another area where the bureaucracy tended to ignore the formal rules was in the way that it responded to the pressures brought to bear upon it by political groups and organisations seeking favoured treatment. Requests for such special treatment were sometimes based on family friendship, or political ties. But, they were often accompanied by threats against individuals and their families - threats that were perfectly credible. When such threats came from more than one group, the result was frequently bureaucratic paralysis. When caught in a political cross-fire, doing nothing was sometimes the most prudent course of action. In large measure, this was simply reflective of one of the realities of Lebanese life. The government could not enforce the laws, nor could it provide security to officials whose decisions made them unpopular with one political group or another. It is difficult to blame individual bureaucrats for giving in to this sort of pressure.

In terms of bureaucratic behaviour, note must be taken of the choices and incentives that individual bureaucrats had to face in the circumstances of the civil war. By and large, the dynamics of the situation converged to promote traditional rather than formal bureaucratic values.

The government's inability to enforce the regulations governing employees' conduct was one aspect of the situation. The lack of security in the country was another. The general need to accumulate funds as a possible source of security, should the situation deteriorate, enhanced the importance of economic incentives, and perhaps the tendency towards economic corruption. In addition, the need for political influence in order to maintain one's position or to advance in the bureaucracy became increasingly important.

Finally, in a country where political assassinations and kidnappings became regular occurrences, the need to avoid antagonising any of the armed factions was very real in a personal sense. Given these inducements, it is easy to understand the non-professional behaviour of many officials. There were also many officials who deplored what they regarded as the poor performance of the bureaucrats and the bureaucracy, but who felt helpless, frustrated and unable to act.2

Although the bureaucracy has survived despite considerable damage and lasting scars, it has succumbed further to economic corruption, favouritism and political intervention in the face of the pressures generated by the intensity of the conflict. The most serious problems that the bureaucracy encountered during the war and that are still felt at present, though in various degrees of intensity, are the following:

  1. Paralysis of the central control agencies; the Civil Service Board, the Central Inspection Board, the Disciplinary Council and the Bureau of Accounts.
  2. 'Institutionalisation' of bribery and extortion. Civil servants in certain administrative units 'priced' public transactions, and would not process any transaction unless the price - a personal tax - was paid. The revenues were shared among employees in a ratio corresponding to their ranks.
  3. Understaffing. The vacancies that have accrued over the war years in the top administrative positions have deprived the bureaucracy of executives and planners. Up to few months ago, vacancies amounted to 48 per cent of grade one positions (these were filled recently), 60 per cent of grade two positions, and 62 per cent of grade three positions.
  4. Overstaffing. Vacancies in lower positions (grades four and five) have reached 62 per cent, but this was over- compensated for by ministers appointing thousands of unqualified daily workers and contractors in total disregard of their qualifications. The bureaucracy is swollen now with appointees of this type, whose numbers exceed twenty thousand.
  5. Collapse of hierarchical authority and loss of bureaucratic credibility.

As a result of the emergence of new values and behaviour patterns and the new political-military élites of the militias, the structure of bureaucratic authority collapsed. And, as a consequence of this phenomenon and of the epidemic spread of economic corruption and political favouritism, bureaucracy lost whatever credibility it had had (Kisirwani, 1993). To free the bureaucracy of these pathologies - or at least to curb them - is an elephantine task in Lebanon. Administrative reform has been an eternal theme for both governments and people. Governments have resorted to it with varied motivations, one of which has been to obtain credibility. The public has always aspired to a reformed administration that provides services efficiently and effectively and ensures equitable treatment. Both governments and the public in Lebanon have lost their bids so far.

After approximately seven years of relative peace and security, it appears that the efforts of Lebanese governments to reform the administration have lacked the political will, determination and perseverance that are the basic requirements for achieving reform. Despite the assistance that has been provided by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the United States Agency for International Development, there is no indication yet of any improvement in the performance of the Lebanese bureaucracy. Considering the gigantic task of rehabilitation and reconstruction, and the combined old and war-generated pathologies of the administration, the bureaucracy is not ready yet to undertake such an operation.

In concluding this chapter, and in view of the preceding account of the post-war political maze, economic destruction and precarious assumptions regarding the availability of funds, along with the permanent pathologies of the bureaucracy, one is justified in doubting the prospects for success of the reconstruction programme. Unless political harmony is reached among communal groups and national consensus is developed, and unless the bureaucracy itself is rehabilitated and fortified against political interference and sectarian cleavages, the reconstruction of Lebanon will remain an unattainable objective far beyond Horizon 2000.



1. The designation 'ideal type' refers to the common practices among Lebanese bureaucrats of granting favours to citizens on a basis other than merit, and the charging of cash gratuities. These practices are bureaucratic pathologies that defy rationality, impersonality and professionalism - which constitute the pivotal characteristics of Max Weber's formulation of an 'Ideal type' bureaucracy.Back

2. A number of civil servants, including the Director-General of the Ministry of Finance, were assassinated.Back



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