- This topic is empty.
- April 3, 2021 at 4:29 pm #14994admin adminKeymaster
Learning a new language is challenging, yet with practice, one gains a firmer command and enjoys it for its intrinsic value. But before delving into the new language of true decentralization, we will need to ac- knowledge the failure of the current administrative model in unifying and managing the Nation, post inde- pendence. Our current system can be described as a mix of centralizing and decentralizing measures, with a hierarchy operating as follows:
At its base, the electors vote for the municipality council, which in turn votes for the mayor who reports to the administrator (caimacam) appointed by the central government. The administrator reports to the chief governor (mohafez) who is also appointed by the central government. The chief governor reports to the Interior and Justice Ministers, who are part of the State’s board of governance.
At the lowest level of the pyramid, the municipality councils and the mayors are authorized to manage limited municipal budgets. Bigger budgets depend on the administrator while access to the most signi- ficant budgets depends on the chief governor. The Interior Minister has the authority to create municipal councils that not hold more financial clout. In addition, the Interior Minister has control over the municipal councils’ president, vice-president, their salaries, the transformation of the public domain into a municipal one, and the distribution of a wide range of budgets for development.
With this sort of power concentrated in the hands of one person, I wonder how any kind of local develop- ment initiative can be put into motion. And why is it that the municipal council has to align itself with the mayor (elected by the council) rather than the citizens who voted them in?
This logic defying structure forces both the elected local decision-makers as well those approved by the administrator and the chief governor to agree on the proposed projects. The results are systemic adminis- trative bottlenecks aggravated by layers of financial municipality budget controllers. And since municipa- lities are always seeking the approval of political hie- rarchies to maintain good relations with the central power, the final outcome turns out to be a dysfunc- tional system that stifles local and regional develop- ments as well as national economic growth.
The decentralization proposed by the Taef Agreement has nothing to do with the political systems of partition, federation and confederation. On the contrary, it is a reformed decentralization allowing for the imple- mentation of solutions to overcome the inefficiencies of the current model and cope with the demands of communities and political parties witnessing a two- speed development of their respective zones of in- fluence. The Taef propositions are as follows:
• Give regions administrative and financial autonomy free from central power pressures.
- Let regions be more independent when it comes to assessing their development
• Grant regions access to bigger budgets for these developments.
Today, the State collects taxes, custom duty tariffs, and other fiscal incomes on a national level. This money is partly allocated to expenses related to common state expenditures such as the upkeep of national defense, the maintenance of road networks, the central bank, the sewage system, in addition to other national services that roughly account for 5% of the national budget. 70% is reallocated to municipalities based on the local fiscal revenues and other indicators, such as the number of inhabitants and/or urban development. The remaining 25% is allotted to the municipality unions. Of those, some will function as a single group under one direc- tive thereby splitting the total as they see fit.
In an improved decentralized model, from the 95% to be redistributed, 5% can easily be increased to 12, 5% with the long-term objective of raising that margin to 25% and introducing a more balanced and efficient tax recovery system.
In other words, the concept of a State-initiated local development system is replaced by the concept of a region-development system with State support and the added value of swift financial benefits.
Moreover, local administrations are granted the right to partner with private ventures, to raise extra taxes, and to request loans – subject to state scrutiny and a healthy financial management system.
More importantly, the new decentralization model will increase solidarity and awareness for accounta- bility by setting clear roles for the municipal council members and the mayor. This process will also extend the principle of voters electing a mayor as well as the casa council and its president.
The caza council will replace the administrative function of the governor (mohafez) and the adminis- trator (caimacam) who were formerly nominated by the State, which in turn will do away with the conflict of interests that habitually paralyze the system and
the initiatives that would otherwise have ensured local growth.
The election of individuals representing the entire chain of command will ensure that they are held ac- countable of their duties to their constituency and the State through ethical governance. Economic growth can become the safeguard for the re-election of those very same individuals and a positive motiva- tional force
From then, the role of previous administrators (caima- cams) will fizzle out. While the position of the State appointed chief governors (mohafez) remain, though it now is about control rather than governance. It is noteworthy to mention that the State keeps its role of controller, but delegates local development initiatives to the region alone. The other fundamental trans- formation is the opportunity offered to the casa and the mohafaza in form of self-development initiatives unhindered by other regions and therefore able to create independent administrative regulations.
The new and improved decentralization gover- nance system encourages the independent deve- lopment of each region. It grants the local popula- tion an enhanced sense of identity, encourages local economic activities, and boosts local development
through leaner and more responsible governance. The evolution of each region, based on the consent of its citizens, will ensure the economic growth of the Nation as a single entity.
The decentralization system will usher in a new era for regional administration and governance practices, revised and altered according to the needs of the people living there. For over five years, the Lebanese State has been preparing the implementation of such a system despite the fact that the go-ahead from poli- tical forces has not been issued.
I was fortunate to learn more about this matter when I met Rabih El Chaer, Advisor to the former Minister of the Interior Ziyad Baroud. This young technocrat, who contributed to the successful legislative elections of 2008, was kind enough to spend an entire morning enlightening me on the administrative, financial and managerial implications the new decentralization plan would entail. Adding to the initial project, he explai- ned that to implement a viable and improved decen- tralization system, the State would be extra mindful of local diversities. It is worthy to note that for the first time in our country’s history, the State has taken the initiative of organizing in depth research with local populations to better understand their needs, motiva- tions, and wishes.
A specialized private company called Common Space conducted this research through 80 workshops across the country. These resulted in face-to-face conversa- tions with over 1750 citizens belonging to various reli- gious, political, local, administrative, professional, and civilian communities that helped describe the “pulse” of the population.
From the data collected, the state refined the decen- tralization model and organized additional training programs for government staff. The goal was to better familiarize civil servants with this innovative system of governance that, if applied, could lead to a long overdue improvement in the state’s management and the added potential for growth.
It should be clear, that civil society has a right and a duty to know about this expansive project, and ask the authorities why it still has not been implemented. Extensive decentralization will push people to change their antiquated habits regarding economic stalemate. The interests of the dominant political forces would be jeopardized. It would be an end to the limitless control and the undeserved privileges exercised by the same ruling order, which has plagued local and regional de- velopment projects for decades.
Our hopelessness in changing this foul order, has led us overtime to the bad reflex of blaming the State. Yet, while researching this book, I came to realize that the State is harbouring a silent minority of elite experts, who can help transform our Nation’s future to one of prosperity and unprecedented grow.
For this transition to become a reality, it is crucial that we provide the support and assistance to cement CAGI’s role as defender and champion of the State as well as privately owned projects that can trigger a paradigm shift towards a federative economy. Simply put, CAGI, with the support of those who believe in this vision, namely you, will become the voice of the new decentralization movement and its representa- tive body. Its initial role will be to alert and educate the Lebanese population of the benefits and merits of de- centralization, via a ministry devoted to that purpose. This ministry would be responsible for the restruc- turing of the State apparatus, the training of its lea- dership and the transformation of various institutions in preparation for its e-governance. Though this may come across as wishful thinking, you will be pleased to learn that the groundwork has already been laid out and is just waiting for the proverbial ‘Green Light’.
But can we put an end to the current stalemate and ill-will without trying to exert influence on the politi- cal forces? Quite frankly, this is highly unlikely. Only influence can drive our civil society to exert pressure on decision-makers and politicians for change and the greater good.
The new decentralization plan’s first move would be to push for the enforcement of the Taef Agreements which, on an economic level has a far greater signifi- cance as it paves the way to true sustainable develop- ment. Central to the success of the five-year plan, will be the endorsement and participation of the Lebanese population in all its diversity as well as the combined initiation of projects tailored to each region’s needs.
Launching the hydroelectric plan and mobilizing the individuals and the institutions to finance it becomes far more efficient if each citizen was aware of his or her interest in the venture. A dam, an artificial lake, solar panels, irrigation systems and urban or touristic development projects in one region become a motiva- tional incentive for the Akkar, North Lebanon, Bekaa, Nabatieh, Baalbeck-Hermel, Mount Lebanon, Beirut or South Lebanon’s inhabitants. Better still, this incentive will automatically grow when one of the eight moha- fazat, or one of the 26 cazas, or even one of the 964 municipalities is closest to their heart and interest.
Yet beyond the motivational factor of seeing one’s own region prospering, decentralization encourages the development of territories otherwise neglected in an ill-defined administration. It also introduces a new sense of competition between cazas to excel, (which is normal given that every individual in each local com- munity wishes to be part of his regional growth). And with such prosperity, a fresh economical beginning is born guaranteeing better standards of living, a boost in local productivity, encouragement of local cultural tourism, a jump in the local real-estate value, and the creation of an exemplary local developmental model. This kind of healthy competition between regions through decentralization will accelerate national growth and secure home-grown economic progress.
As for the five-year hydroelectric plan, this book was not written with the intention of getting into the full details but rather raising interest and inviting all parties to its website for a more elaborate outline on what is being discussed. On that note, I invite you to fami- liarize yourselves with the decentralization program set by the government whose application continues to be stunted and fought with ignorance and politi- cal manoeuvring. The more people are aware of this reality, the greater the possibility of turning this into a national debate whether in live discussions or on the Internet. It is you who, by exercising this right and visiting decentralisation.gov.lb, once it becomes ope- rational, can become the ambassadors of decentralization, thereby contributing to the articulation of a new and federative national language.
Based on economic benefits, a governmental system that gives more room and independence to regions is, in truth, the most suitable system to bring cohesion to the Nation. Decentralisation brings federative effect. Local interests encourage a collective conscience. The sum of all collective consciences pushes the sus- tainable National IDEA ever further.
For CAGI, additional propositions to back decentrali- zation – while strengthening the Nation’s economic growth – include the creation of a national railroad network.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.