Monday, May 01, 2006

The Forgotten Lebanese Youth

May 1st, 2006: Where are we from the suffocating unemployment epidemic in our country?

Even today, on Labor Day, we will see the March 8 and March 14 groups gathering in separate venues to preach and/or rant about justice and equality. On every single issue, politics and empty slogans get their fair share of representation.

Would anyone bother to ask about percentages and numbers? If we are to ask these questions, I believe that everyone in the political sphere in our country will get an F. Because, there is nothing being done to date to solve the biggest and most entrenched problem in our country, which is unemployment.

Unemployment leads to apathy and emptiness, apathy leads to a fatalistic outlook on life, which in turn leads to youth that carry polarized and extremist world views…and of course we’ll witness from the comfort of our couches, a race to arms and confrontation.

The enthusiasm harnessed from youth on the eve of March 14, which was conveniently used by politicians, has been easily transformed from a peaceful enthusiasm to a monstrous enthusiasm to conquer, subdue, and win over.

And those young Lebanese who do not have an appetite for conquering, subduing, and wining over, have been packing their bags and leaving the country in search of better prospects, while their parents bid them farewell with a smile, happy that their children are out of the danger zone.

Beirut I, Aoun’s aspirations, Lahoud, Hizbullah’s arms, the Shebaa Farms, the Hariri investigation, Syria, Israel, Iran, the debt, the national dialogue, the Maronite representation crisis, the Shiite-Sunni rift….and nowhere do we read, see, or hear about a comprehensive strategy for workforce development and employment.

Let’s start first with those forgotten Lebanese youth who still live in Lebanon, and then those living abroad can return and bring their brains and/or money along.

But when I write "Let's", who is "us"? Does the "us" have any power in Lebanon at the moment? Perhaps instead of going around the country collecting signatures to impeach President Lahoud, a campaign that turned out to be useless and futile at best, Lebanese journalists, politicians, and wives of politicians should have toured the country to collect signatures for a petition that reads:


(Note: And for those who ask, I'm not in any shape or form advocating replacing market mechanisms, but advocating for a more "facilitator" role on the part of the state, within a public-private partnership framework, to help move the country and its people forward. Just think how simple it could be to install computers with internet access in some remote towns in Lebanon and provide access to Lebanese with a country-wide employer database, a job bank of sorts, to help facilitate job searches, and in turn, employers would be benefitting from that service as well by being matched with a pool of Lebanese applicants.)

"Nobody knows how many rebellions, besides political rebellions, ferment in the masses of life which people earth."


JoseyWales said...

Doha, the State will not give you a job nor does it owe you one.

Unless we're talking jobs at the casino or ministry of this, where you show up once a month and rob the nation.

I demand the state does ITS own job of establishing security an implementing the law. The rest, the private economy will do a whole lot better than the state.

But you are right that the right questions need to be asked and focused on (and Shebaa ain't it).

Doha said...

I believe in the market economy, yet in even the most market-oriented countries, such as the U.S., the government at all levels, the local, state, and federal, provides basic job search assistance, job placement services, and refers customers to training services that can place them in occupations that are in high growth, high demand industries.

I myself work within that system in employment and training policy on the federal level. That's why I cringe at all the lost opportunities and potential back in Lebanon. All the government needs to do is basically to channel those job applicants to private-sector run training institutes that can assist them best. The government should act as a facilitator, not an intervenor nor a "spectator."

I hope you got my point.

Anonymous said...

When was the last decent job placement by a state agency?

Doha said...

Anon: where?

JoseyWales said...

If your point is that the gov and pols should focus on the economy, we agree.

I'm just saying security and stability, the gov primary responsibilies, will help jobs 90%. Other stuff MAY be icing on the cake.

So before we get to the kind of fine tuning you are talking about, we need to dump clearly and very aggressively side issues like shebaa, the resistance, support for the PA and the like.

If not, no amount of gvmnt help will cure the job situation. And I am afraid that even the opponents of HA and Lahoud dare not say that bluntly.

Mustapha said...

Doha, Allow me to disagree with you for the first time

Here are two scenarios:

1- You set up a government agency to facilitate job search. You go around the country giving job-search workshops, career-development lectures, and you try to create some kind of matchmaking database between job-seekers and job-creators. To achieve that, you have to increase the government's bureaucracy by hiring people who are expecting tax-payer-money jobs for life, with political backing and corruption that would offset the benefits of such a position (which is tax income derived from more people employed in the economy)

2- Create a growth policy that will make doing business in Lebanon so desirable that the companies themselves will dispatch people to look for talent.

As a responsible tax payer, which one would you choose?

Doha said...


It's funny how we immediately think of old and used scenarios. You don't need to create new government jobs; all you need to do is contract out those jobs to the private sector to achieve the desired outcome, which is facilitating the process of job matching.

Second, the government can also give out grants in order to help achieve certain results. In that context, the governemnt can award competitive grants to training institutes and private colleges (that are so widespread around the country and are affordable means of receiving diplomas and certifications) in order to provide certain curricula that match with what businesses in Lebanon need. Of course, to know what the competencies that businesses want in their employees, the state then needs to talk to businesses.

I interned in the Ministry of Economy at one point, and I personally worked to get a grant for the Ministry from USAID, yet what was interesting is that this grant had a condition pegged to it, namely partnering up with a non-governmental organization (non-profit or for-profit organization). And so we had to parnter up with an NGO in order to receive that grant; it was a new way of doing business in our government agencies. That was almost an alient concept to many civil servants who worked there.

There are a myriad of ways for a state to apply its policies without intervening in already-existing local dynamics. When we think of state policies, we always think of direct intervention and direct provision of services which outcrowd the market. The new way of looking at things, is trying to have the state engaged in shaping and implementing policies, but through alternative and innovative means by reaching out to players outside of its sphere, such as businesses, social service providers, the education continuum, etc.

The private initiative in Lebanon is great. I always read about collaborations between training institutes and businesses to create a pipeline of qualified workers, yet imagine if the state at least tried to bring together all those brilliant thinkers to try to come up with large-scale initiatives...

JoseyWales said...

yet imagine if the state at least tried to bring together all those brilliant thinkers to try to come up with large-scale initiatives...

We don't have to imagine Doha.

The French are still under the illusion that it works (money loser Concord in the past).

Today the might of the French gvmnt and billion of Euros are backing a new search engine to rival Google that was created by the proverbial 2 guys in a garage.

That's saying nothing about the socialist experiment in the old Eastern Bloc.

I know you trust the private sector, as does everyobody nowadays, at least in words. But be careful what you wish for.

Let the gvmnt. fix what it is supposed to manage before taking on new tasks. Let's get electricity (and public education) working before all this other stuff.

PS Yeah and while I'm hitting on the gmnt, let's also extradite friggin Rana Koleilate, how difficult is that?

Bashir said...

Doha, I think your post highlights the issues that should be of primary concern for us today. The government has some duties and should be "forced" to undertake them. We have some responsibilities and we should rise up and act accordingly. The post is good and appropriate...