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    Undeserved respite

    It is difficult to imagine how many Cabinet sessions are required to address the government’s to-do list, running as it does to several hundred items. Perhaps 100, maybe more. A thousand? It is hard to say. What is straightforward, however, is identifying the fact that three sessions, plainly, will not suffice.

    Lebanon has been administratively paralyzed for far longer than the five months it took Prime Minister Najib Mikati to hammer out a palatable Cabinet composition. So, if after more than a year of legislative inertia, the people of Lebanon exhaled a collective sigh of relief when a new government was finally formed, it would perhaps have been better to save the communal breath.

    There have been three meetings of the latest Cabinet, in which a handful of decisions – the majority of which were already decided – were made. It was a tiny, insufficient start to addressing the myriad problems enfeebling the country, but in a state where progress can be measured in millimeters, it constituted a baby step forward.

    It is of note that one of Mikati’s final acts was to discuss ways of increasing tourism in Lebanon. This, the public was told, will be a priority for the government, to formulate ways of luring foreigners back to Lebanon, by preventing extortion, reducing congestion and generally cleaning the place up.

    To then discover that there will be an official break until the end of the month, in which several ministers and scores of deputies head to the climbs of Mediterranean beaches and European city hotspots, cannot but feel like a slap in the face.

    To encourage tourists to sample the delights of this beautiful country before jetting out of it represents stifling hypocrisy. The double standard cannot be ignored in the immediate sense. But the decision made by many lawmakers to treat themselves to an entirely unearned mini-break is representative of larger-scale neglect by Lebanon’s MPs and ministers.

    It should be remembered that they are representatives of the people. In order to be worthy of the position, they actually need to represent, to work tirelessly on improving the lives of the ordinary Lebanese they have for so long ignored. The Cabinet ought to meet twice a day, every day – holidays included to make up for all these months of inaction – until the mess they have saddled the country with is addressed.

    The problem is evident. Too many MPs believe that by being elected to Parliament they have completed their mandate. They are the choice of the people, and periodically stand up for their own sort when openly challenged. But a willingness to occasionally defend individual interests does not an MP make.

    Each MP and minister needs to work tirelessly on making Lebanon a better place, not trumpeting its virtues to foreigners before escaping it for a week or so. Do that, and maybe lawmakers will someday be entitled to a holiday.

    The Daily Star
    23.07.2011

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