E-Lebanon’s Voice: Building a Modern State
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      Farid Chehab

      One of the agenda’s much anticipated and sought-after federative projects is the introduction of digital tools for State management, which will enable a more efficient, responsive, and appealing administrative body in contact with future investors. Concurrently, the implementation of such a system will secure better financial management and audit, as well as a faster and more equitable distribution of State revenues, accelerating regional development. This will encourage more investments and healthier competition between regions.

      The hydroelectric plan will become a powerhouse for regional development, encouraging industries like tourism, agriculture, real estate, healthcare and other services to grow in places that had seldom benefited from outside investment.

      The railroad network, previously discussed, will contribute to the re-localization scheme, creating another virtuous circle for growth with competitive regional opportunities. Regions like Akkar, Hermel, and Hermon for instance, offer significant unexploited space with promising environmental, touristic and agricultural potential.

      The State of Israel files thousands of patents every year, which is something Lebanon can look up to once the creation of a technology sector is initiated. The development of research institutions in partnership with Western organizations would be a welcome proposition. Better still, getting Asian firms in on the action would be an even more enticing proposal as that part of the world is not only more accessible but also eager to break into and increase its share in Middle Eastern markets.

      With plans of this nature awaiting implementation, the construction of a modern State would be well on its way as CAGI furthers its vision by adding initiatives based on new economic opportunities and planning. The stable economic welfare alleviates people’s fears and tensions, giving way to newfound citizen confidence.

      Turning our attention to the education sector, CAGI can enforce a complete overhaul of the current system and its scandalous discrepancies. These include schools and universities selling diplomas in exchange for hard currency or awarding them based on a student’s political or religious affiliation. Such widespread practices have turned our academic system into a nest for future inequalities and inadequacies.

      In the process of reinforcing a National Conscience, CAGI will have to initiate a plan for educational reform as follows:

      • Insuring free education for all. Teaching the most accurate version of our history. Raising awareness to our differences and conditioning students to the idea that it is healthier to accept what differentiates us to better appreciate what unites us. To protect our plurality and make the best of our conviviality.
      • Insuring the same optimal quality of education for all by hiring the most suitable educators money can buy.
      • Insuring civic education to all from early childhood so that Lebanon’s youth grow into law-abiding citizens who respect the environment, road safety, cleanliness and personal hygiene, and most importantly, themselves.
      • Insuring a free university education system for all. School graduates must be allowed the prospect of higher education independently of their political or religious belief. Allowing them to decide freely where their loyalties lie.

      Educating an entire generation requires 12 years minimum. If CAGI manages to get all political players and community stakeholders to agree and finance such a plan by 2018, then Lebanon in 2030 will have achieved a historical feat. A new generation of university graduates from all religions and social classes will take to the stage nurtured by a common history, motivated by the same hope for the future, and sharing an eagerness in making the big leap towards a fresh dialogue between citizens.

      Twenty years from now, Lebanon will have entered its 87th year of existence.

      One cannot force the march to modernity, nor impose a process for change. Human evolution and a higher quality of life come with education and a robust economic growth. That kind of change needs time and preparation if it is not to fail as past examples have shown, be it the courageous trials of young Lebanese demanding secularism, young Egyptians calling for democracy, or even young Saudis asking for freedom of expression. Past attempts have ended in failure because success does not come by force or by virtue of a miracle.

      The most potent proof is the Turkish model that has been forcefully imposing secularism since 1925 only to have resurgent religious movements calling for Building a Modern State equality. Why? Because Kemalism failed to insure harmonious economic growth to all Turks the way the United States of America, Western Europe and the rest of the world’s sustainable democracies did with their people.

      Having firmly established that no transformation can occur without a healthy economic base, the process envisioned by CAGI is a lengthy but necessary one. The most complex issues can be solved in the context of an economy that considers all its children members of the same family without any favoritism. This is the price to pay for the edification of a modern Nation.

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