Lebanon has weathered a number of political storms in recent months, and the authorities are busy implementing a solution for unrest in the city of Tripoli and eventually the rest of the country, as well as ensuring that an imminent presidential election takes place smoothly.
However, the public is hearing about the possibility of a new “intifada” – not over sectarianism or the involvement of certain groups in Syria, but over a long-standing set of wage demands by teachers and government employees.
The confrontation playing out on the streets, and on television screens, is a loud one, but the mess could have easily been avoided if politicians busied themselves with the work of government, and not rhetoric and sloganeering.
While the executive and legislative branches of government were mired in paralysis over much of last year, the central players could have sat down and acknowledged that the salary scale issue was going to re-emerge when the break was over.
They could have sat down and agreed on the outlines of a solution, instead of acting surprised when the inevitable – protests, strikes, threats and ultimatums – returned to daily news bulletins.
Political leaders should step up and take responsibility for the socio-economic mess Lebanon finds itself in and decide on a way out, namely tackling the issue of government waste that already exists in various ministries and state institutions. A commitment to fixing part of the bureaucracy, so that teachers and public servants finally receive a pay scale, is one way to proceed. All sides are aware the public is in no position to accept tax hikes and other measures to drum up money for the raise with the huge leaks in the state bureaucracy.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 09, 2014, on page 7.