Confessional divisions in Lebanon are conducive to external interference

Tue, 09/15/2015

The ways in which Lebanon is politically run on the basis of confessional divisions, in the absence of strategic visions, and with the inability of politicians to identify weaknesses in the political system, were all conducive to the interference of external parties, both foreign countries and international institutions, in setting the country’s priorities. This conclusion which in the past was confined to radical opposition milieus is now also recognised by international financial institutions. For illustration, we will be referring to various conclusions to that effect, drawn by the World Bank and the International Support to Lebanon Group without for that matter necessarily agreeing with these conclusions.

Interference of international institutions in Lebanon outreaches all political, social and economic spheres including the structure of the state, internal political affairs, and the presently acute humanitarian situation triggered by displacement from Syria and other vital issues. In its 2015 diagnosis, the World Bank has clearly held the confessional system responsible for the paralysis in decision and policy making, while surprisingly acknowledging that the present political system is responsible for foreign meddling in the Lebanese affairs. The World bank also proposed a number of solutions to address the current political problems, namely the application of fundamental clauses of the Taef agreement, creating a small council within the Parliament which would not be elected on confessional basis in addition to other suggested solutions.

Meddling in domestic affairs also took place at the internal domestic level. As such, the International Support to Lebanon Group issued on May 2015, a strong warning concerning the possible effects of the current presidential vacuum and ensuing paralysis which undermines Lebanon’s capacity to address security, economic and social crisis. The Group called upon the Lebanese leadership to adhere by the Constitution, apply UN resolution 1701 and remain neutral vis-à-vis the Syrian crisis.

In its 2015 report, and with the stated objective to support Lebanon, the World Bank also noted that confessionalism is major cause for the interruption in power supply and had suggested as a solution to bring in the private sector to manage public services, thus adopting privatisation, long believed by the WB to be the sole solution to save the country. Within the same vein, the WB has recently informed the Lebanese government that with the absence in legislative functions, it will no longer fund new development projects in Lebanon.

Other examples of blatant interference in Lebanon’s domestic affairs are illustrated in foreign positions with regards to the current humanitarian crisis. The recent statement of the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, Ertharin Cousin, during her meeting with the Minister of Social Affairs, Rachid Derbas, is a case in point. Cousin highlighted the importance of employing displaced Syrians without consulting the relevant Lebanese authorities.

With regards to economic prospects, the Senior Director of the Jobs Cross-cutting Solutions Area of the World Bank Group, Nigel Twose, noted that the Lebanese economy suffers from a toxic mix of structural problems, poor growth, and no interest in creating jobs. Twose added that the rich (people in power) are doing well but the rest (the overwhelming majority) are not.

The above were just a small sample of foreign meddling. Such an attitude towards Lebanon is not confined to the above mentioned organisations, but also extends to the European Union and several other foreign and Arab states, which are influential in Lebanon. We will however be content for now with only the above described examples.