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    The year that wasn’t

    As Lebanon bids farewell to 2010, it also bids a bittersweet goodbye to the hope that some 500 items on the Cabinet’s agenda – and on the agenda of the Lebanese people – would receive the attention they deserve.

    Lebanon’s politicians have been busy warning the public daily that civil strife and unrest could break out with the issuing of an indictment by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in the 2005 killing of Rafik Hariri.

    Unrest related to events in The Hague is a possibility. But so is the outbreak of unrest that springs from the failure to address people’s needs and grievances.

    The daily business of government is not a luxury. When the government fails to act on the poor situation of electricity, water supplies, sanitation, road safety, infrastructure, or the economy, to name just a few items, resentment and despair grow to dangerous proportions.

    If a given community feels it’s getting short-changed by the government, while other parts of the country “get their share,” tension over seemingly trivial things like a broken power line or unfinished road works can easily become a mini-sectarian war. It doesn’t take grand statements from the Hague to push the country to the brink.

    It is no cliché to state that poverty, like the Cabinet’s paralysis, affects all sects. The political stalemate is eating away at the reputation of the government, and of the political system itself. If left untreated, it will eventually have a negative impact on investors and the business community, and lead to a drying up of political support from abroad. A government mired in such an impasse will find itself less and less capable of earning others’ respect, or securing their much-needed cooperation.

    Lebanon has in the past lurched from one year to the next, suffering from an acute lack of planning and political vision. But 2010 will be remembered as the year of the infamous 500-item Cabinet agenda, which brings to mind the way the government allows garbage dumps to grow to frighteningly large sizes, until a bout of bad weather brings collapse, with disastrous consequences.

    Lebanon has entered the Guinness Book of World Records of late, for its giant plates of tabbouleh and hummus, but the pile of accumulated policy paralysis also deserves mention in a record-book somewhere.

    Elsewhere, countries will be entering the new decade by making huge efforts to provide better lives for their citizens. In Lebanon, the political class lives in denial, subsists on grandiose rhetoric, and waits for solutions from the outside world. But no solution will be durable unless Lebanese shoulder their portion of responsibility in 2011, acting with courage, creativity and inspiration. Otherwise, another lost year awaits.

    The Daily Star

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