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    Lethal Instability

    The minister of interior has said publicly that Lebanon’s security situation is “not at its best.” Ziyad Baroud is certainly in a position to know. And most people are aware that the situation isn’t reassuring.

    This view has arisen in recent weeks amid a number of unrelated events. But when taken together, they form a potentially lethal cocktail of instability.

    Even before the recent, “exceptional” recent events, a government suffering from internal division, paralysis, and finally, collapse, failed to address pressing domestic issues related to infrastructure, utilities, economic policy and initiatives, and piecemeal reform moves. Amid the drift, a crime wave began. Then, seven Estonian nationals were kidnapped. People have heard about the travails of Lebanese abroad, whether in the Gulf or West Africa. And, the uprising at Roumieh prison.

    Meanwhile, some leading politicians have been engaged in the tough, painstaking and concerted effort to … ensure that they get X number of portfolios in the next Cabinet, and not one fewer, heaven forbid.

    On one side, people are focused on their pressing socio-economic and other needs, and a set of worrying crises. On the other, politicians are busy counting angels on the head of a pin.

    Most candidates for government seats are keeping quiet about what they would do if selected; the entire process is such a shambles that no one even expects that coherent policies or plans of action would play a part in deciding who runs Lebanon. Others put forward their solutions, and aren’t asked why these issues weren’t priorities when they were in government previously.

    These politicians fail to realize that today’s events aren’t just an exercise of the media playing up certain stories. These “stories” have real-world impact. The overcrowding and corruption in Lebanon’s prisons has an impact on an entire segment of society.

    Meanwhile, local politicians’ comments on the tension in Bahrain have aggravated an already-tense situation in the Gulf for some Lebanese, and Manama has warned its citizens not to come here. The tragic situation in the Ivory Coast is affecting thousands of Lebanese nationals, and potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in people’s livelihoods.

    Politicians are certainly aware that tourism and remittances are central to the national economy, and both are being hurt by the domestic instability and the foreign crises.

    Lebanon’s reputation is deteriorating, and politicians should end their arcane bargaining over percentages. The country might not be in a state of emergency for the same reasons as other states in the region, but the economic and security situations here certainly deserve the title of “state of emergency.”

    The Daily Star
    06.04.2011

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