What would surprise some Lebanese people is that the latest leak of offshore financial documents alleges that senior Lebanese figures, including the current prime minister, have accessed the offshore tax haven (though this has been denied by Najib Mikati, a businessman who took the top job in July). ). The so-called Pandora Papers listing Lebanon as the world leader in the most offshore companies – 346 – further highlights the industrial scale of corruption in the kingdom.
Lebanon is already ranked among the most corrupt states internationally. Opinion polls show that 91% of Lebanese citizens believe that corruption in the public sector is widespread.
The extent of money laundering and the use of offshore shelters is a bad time for Lebanon’s political establishment. The country is currently facing an unprecedented economic and political crisis.
Lebanon’s economic collapse has been ranked by the World Bank as one of the three most severe anywhere seen since the middle of the 19th century. According to the United Nations, the crisis has left more than three-quarters of the population below the poverty line and hyperinflation has led to massive devaluation of wages and savings.
Read more: Lebanon: A year after the Beirut explosion, the failed state struggles between poverty and sectarianism
Pandora’s revelations reveal that, as ordinary Lebanese citizens are suffering, the state’s elite are siphoning billions of dollars into secret offshore tax havens and businesses.
The fact that Mikati has been accused of using offshore companies in the Pandora Papers refutes his image as a reformist politician willing to confront the state’s corruption problem.
Mikati is seen by the West and its institutions as an acceptable leader who is able to lead significant economic and structural reforms to create stability in Lebanon.
muzzle and trough
Billions of dollars are involved in corruption in Lebanon. It has used government ministries and offices as personal fiefdoms to enrich personal wealth to senior political leaders and their comrades.
The political elite running powerful ministries entrust lucrative contracts to private companies either owned by themselves, their families or allies, who are required to pay huge financial bribes in return. A study published by Chatham House in June 2021 found a lack of transparency in awarding contracts for major infrastructure work that has been going on for decades.
The context in which grand corruption occurs in Lebanon is a legacy of the civil war and the sectarian power-sharing system established at the end of it. The end of the civil war allowed the reintegration of the warlords responsible for the violence into a sectarian power-sharing government as a form of democracy.
The sharing of power is meant to guarantee representation to the various denominations of Lebanon in the government and public sphere. However, the main consequence of the Lebanese power-sharing is that “acne“(Allocation) the state. Allocation state means that key political and public offices are divided for sectarian-based leaders in a system that is more pie-sharing than actual power-sharing.
The communal carving of ministries and positions – the plunder of peace – has allowed such figures and their associates to amass obscene wealth for themselves and their close associates. Major corruption covers almost all sectors: transportation, health care, energy, natural resources, construction and social assistance programs.
The sheer scale of corruption further hinders the development of democratic institutions and state building. This claim is clear in how political leaders use corruption to build patron-client relationships with their communities. By essentially controlling a number of key services through public and private networks, political leaders make many Lebanese citizens dependent on them for daily existence.
In search of health care, food and other basic services, Lebanese citizens often turn to their sectarian leaders rather than to the state. Political leaders who deliver these services expect mutual cooperation from their communities by giving their support at the ballot box. Thus corruption is central to the existence of communal politics.
involved in corruption
The Lebanese state’s ability to effectively deal with rampant corruption is limited. While political leaders make rhetoric to set up anti-corruption measures, the agencies overseeing the process are toothless. Political leaders steeped in corruption have no incentive to formulate policies that deal seriously with corruption.
In recent years no senior Lebanese politician or politician has been charged with a conviction for corruption. Only low-ranking government officials have been successfully prosecuted for bribery.
Lebanon’s judicial system is not untouched by interference from political leaders, who use all the powers they have to slow or stop corruption investigations or processes demanding impunity. The investigation into the Beirut explosion port, which has recently faced massive political backlash, is widely said to be a case in point.
What does this mean for ordinary citizens
Revolutionary episode of Lebanon 2019 thawra sought to destroy this system of communal pie-sharing, in which communal chieftains fought for fortune and power. Protesters took to the streets for months and demanded the resignation of political leaders. But others, compounding, crises – ranging from the pandemic, the Beirut explosion and the economic downturn – have restricted people’s ability to organize and mobilize on the streets.
Lebanese political scientist Karim al-Mufti calls this “zombie syndrome”, which causes people to sink into exhaustion and despair. The landscape of the revolutionary uprising is increasingly fragmented, and people are busy thinking about their livelihoods. The economy has collapsed, there is a dilemma in everyone’s mind whether to stay or go.
Does this mean that the Lebanese people have no agency? With the upcoming parliamentary elections due in March 2022, various informal forums and citizen-based parties are hoping to attract the momentum to turn the tide. The Pandora Papers are another proof that change is as necessary as ever.