Lebanon’s Cabinet made a number of long-needed appointments to top civil service positions this week, although its primary responsibility is to ensure a more stable security environment and orchestrate smooth presidential and parliamentary elections, both scheduled for this year.
Meanwhile, after a long absence from the legislative scene, Parliament was also busy. MPs endorsed long-needed legislation to rectify the status of contract workers in the electricity sector and are grappling with how to fund another legitimate demand: a wage hike for teachers and some public sector workers.
No one is saying that the above moves aren’t long overdue. Naturally, there is the added problem of how to fund the wage hike for teachers, but there is a more pressing question – why is dealing with “overdue” and “long-pending” items so selective?
In reality, the executive and legislative branches merely offered an aspirin to a patient suffering from a chronic disease. Lebanon’s public sector – the dozens of ministries and related institutions – requires thoroughgoing reform, not just appointments at the top or pay hikes.
The ministries of Education and Information have far too many employees, while the National Employment Organization and other bodies don’t have a full staff.
There are hundreds of employees who “run” Lebanon’s oil refineries and its railroads, which both stopped functioning decades ago.
The moves made this week might make sense as short-term attempts to curry favor with some voters, but will do nothing to help the state and economy in the long term. The real celebration will come when comprehensive, planned and nonpartisan solutions to the decades-old problems of the bureaucracy are on the table and taken seriously.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 04, 2014, on page 7.