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    A Shining Example

    This week marks the sixth anniversary of the death of Bassil Fuleihan, and while the magnitude of his loss has not changed over the years, it is particularly relevant to recall his contributions as the country floats along, awaiting its next government.

    Fuleihan is remembered for many things, but his achievements in public affairs continue to resonate today. He was a central figure in the recovery of the postwar economy, serving as an adviser at the Finance Ministry, whose development and restructuring mirrored the rise of Lebanon after the war.

    Fuleihan was a model for what many of our politicians lack: the ability to be a part of a functioning, coherent team. This particular team was led by the late Rafik Hariri, and included Fouad Siniora; these and other members of the economic “team” had a vision for postwar economic recovery and growth, a plan that Fuleihan continued to refine and champion over the years, which finally saw him head the Economy Ministry.

    Fuleihan was a person who sacrificed personal achievements for the higher mission of national service. He abandoned a lucrative job abroad to devote himself to helping his country get back on its feet. It was a path that many politicians in this country might think is “beneath them.”

    He did the kind of hard work that helped overhaul fundamentally important planks of the state: the tax code, foreign economic agreements, the state budget, the financial sector, and a host of other areas.

    It also meant serving the people, through the facilitating of their bureaucratic formalities with the government, or, in other words, making their lives easier and more productive.

    For a country reeling from 15 years of civil conflict, the 1990s reforms that Fuleihan helped create and push through were nearly revolutionary, and might be forgotten by those who do not recall the “bad old days.”

    Later on, Fuleihan turned his attention to an effort that ended up producing the numbered series of Paris meetings that laid the groundwork for comprehensive economic and financial reform.

    Throughout these endeavors, Fuleihan remained a model of what many of our politicians lack: someone devoted to public service, for the sake of public service. Fuleihan isn’t remembered as someone who treated the public sector like his playground, or a place to hide and mark time.

    Lebanon is replete with government ministers who have either failed to leave a mark, or do much to improve the situation they find themselves in when they take office. Bassil Fuleihan was the kind of person that the country has so desperately needed in government.

    He took the initiative and was proactive, but didn’t get involved in petty turf wars. He had a forward-looking vision, but he depended on achievements, and not slogans. He was dedicated to enriching the public, and not himself.

    The Daily Star
    20.04.2011

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