Monday, June 26, 2006

Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) vs. Ministry of Public Works and Transportation

The Ministry of Public Works and Transportation could very well be the most important ministry in Lebanon. But thanks to a combination of incompetence, corruption and bureaucratic manipulation, it is one of Lebanon’s weakest. Four (as opposed to the usual one) Director Generals are housed in the Ministry: 1) a Director General for Civil Aviation, 2) a Director General for Land Transportation, 3) a Director General for Maritime Transportation, and my personal favorite 4) a Director General for Urban Planning (yes, such a job actually exists in Lebanon).

Theoretically, therefore, the scope of the Ministry’s responsibilities could be quite broad. Practically though, the fact that hardly anyone in Lebanon knows that the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation actually houses a Director General for Urban Planning is, in and of itself, quite telling. Even its most prominent task, that of building and maintaining Lebanon’s land transportation network, suffers from major short-change.

The Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) was created by the late Hariri in the early (or mid) 1990s to play the role of a Parallel Bureaucracy that would help him bypass state institutions that were ravaged by war and rife with corruption. Ultimately, he wanted a quick way to process the loans and grants coming into Lebanon, and did not want to go through the headache of reforming or improving existing state institutions. Consequently, all foreign assistance targeted at improving public infrastructure would funnel into CDR, which in turn reported directly (and conveniently) to the Prime Minister’s Office. The relevant ministries that were deprived of these resources would be left with tax revenues (i.e., the scraps) to fulfill their own responsibilities.

This arrangement resulted in a division of labor between the CDR and the Ministry of Public Works and Transportation that looks as follows: 1) CDR implements all new infrastructure projects or upgrades, and 2) the Ministry uses tax revenues to maintain the existing transporation network and whatever the CDR eventually adds on to it.

The problem with this particular arrangement is that the revenues allocated to the Ministry are nowhere near the amount necessary to maintain the roads, bridges and tunnels already in place! A Ballpark estimate of the resources needed to do so stands at around $100 million dollars a year. The actual budget allocated to the ministry for ground transport stands at around $25 million (make that $10 million because the other fifteen finds its way into several very deep pockets!). Ultimately, the result is a public office that only commits 10 percent of what is needed to maintain existing transportation infrastructure.

So here we have two major issues to swallow and think through: 1) Was it really necessary for Hariri to create the CDR as a facilitator of infrastructure development - especially considering the condition of bureuacratic institutions back when he created it? And, is it necessary today? 2) It amazes me how immoral and unscrupulous Lebanese can be! They find it perfectly acceptable to steal even from vital ministries that have a fraction of the resources needed to function.

Public Service vs. Private Selfishness/Corruption: The money that could have been used to save a fourteen year-old child's life, had the ministry of public works installed proper safety amenities at a particular street, went into purchasing an official’s or contractor’s BMW X-3. I hope those son’s of bitches enjoy their cars! They paid for them with other peoples’ blood!

3 comments:

JoseyWales said...

Scariest words in the English language?

We are from the the gvmnt and we are here to help you. (Ronald Reagan)


The irony in Lebanon is that job ONE (security and defense) of gvmnt is outsouced and we keep bloating these useless administrations.

Smaller/minimum gvmnt will cut back on corrution AND on political infighting.

Robert said...

Hi,

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JoseyWales said...

Robert,

Would link my blog to your site please? Thanks.