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PostPosted: Fri Jun 18, 2010 1:27 am
by haroun
NaharNet 6/17/10

'Aspirin' and 'Panadol' Get Your Job Done in Lebanon

Whenever Elie, a successful Lebanese architect, starts a new project, he loads up on "aspirin" or "Panadol" -- the codeword in his entourage for bribe money doled out to officials.

"You need to hand out a lot of 'Panadol' to municipal officials, police, building inspectors and anyone involved in a project in Lebanon to be able to keep it moving," said Elie, who asked that his last name not be used.

"Otherwise they can find any excuse to delay the project for months if not years," he added.

"And the amount of Panadol given depends on the size of the project, its location and the rank of the official taking the bribe."

Transparency International, a Berlin-based watchdog, ranks Lebanon as one of the world's most corrupt countries, placing it 130th - the same ranking as Nigeria and Libya -- among 180 nations considered in a report it released this year.

It scored 14th out of 20 countries ranked in the Arab region.

The World Bank's Worldwide Governance Indicators also painted a bleak picture last year, putting Lebanon at 167th out of 212 countries in terms of corruption control.

Experts say corruption is so rampant in the Mediterranean country of four million people that bribery has become the norm when applying for a building permit, a driver's license, avoiding a high tax or electricity bill, or even getting a divorce.

The country's sectarian system also means that sub-state actors undermine the government's legitimacy with administrative jobs and contracts often allocated based on religious or political affiliation rather than merit.

"Corruption in Lebanon exists at all levels of society and state, and in its various forms including patronage, cronyism, vote-buying, and embezzlement," said Transparency International.

Key factors contributing to this broken system are the successive crises Lebanon has experienced and the political stalemate, coupled with a reluctance among the various ruling clans and parties to change a system from which they benefit.

"It starts at the highest level of government, and it's going from bad to worse on a daily basis," said Gina Chammas Mrad, a financial consultant who has worked in the public sector.

"If you are middle class, you either become corrupt or go down the social strata and, if you are poor, you either go criminal or die of hunger."

Mrad and other experts noted corruption's impact in Lebanon has translated into a loss of faith in the system and a collapse of the basic rule of law.

It has also widely contributed to the country's staggering debt of more than 50 billion dollars, one of the highest in the world in terms of percentage of gross domestic product.

Rami, an electrical engineer, said he is never able to conclude a deal without first distributing cash-filled envelopes.

"It goes from a clerk at a ministry to the head of an administrative department," he said, also asking his last name not be used. "For every deal or project we bid on, we have to factor in the amount of bribes to be paid.

"It's part of the process. Otherwise your administrative paperwork can get stuck in between floors at a ministry and you won't get anything done.

"That's just the way you do business in Lebanon."

Rami said he knows to pay up when he gets a phone call from an official inviting him for a courtesy visit.

"When they tell you to come over for coffee, you know to get the envelope ready," he said laughing. "And let me tell you it ends up being a heck of an expensive cup of coffee."

The electrical engineer said 30 dollars slipped to a clerk can get a file moving faster.

"For someone at the senior level in a ministry it can be as high as 2,000 dollars," he added.

But despite the extent of the problem, tentative efforts are under way to remedy the situation, with the government promising reforms and a national anti-corruption agency set up in May last year.

"We need to change the mentality of the whole Lebanese population, not just blame the administration," Finance Minister Raya al-Hassan told AFP.

She said one key step in combating corruption was the automation of all government agencies so that all formalities are done electronically, thus reducing the possibility of fraud.

"You need a bottom up approach, you need to level the ground, have a playing field that is clear and where the rules are the same for everybody," said Fadi Saab, a financial consultant who heads the Lebanese Transparency Association, a non-governmental organization that works to combat corruption.

"Our success is limited to our ability to execute," Saab said. "You know there is a saying that you can take a horse to water but you can't force it to drink."(AFP)

PostPosted: Sun Oct 24, 2010 6:18 am
by Abou Jamra
Hariri and his crew ought to be shot and hung.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 5:54 am
by haroun
Are you still taking persian pills? time to switch Doctors.

PostPosted: Tue Oct 26, 2010 7:18 am
by Abou Jamra
haroun wrote:Are you still taking persian pills? time to switch Doctors.

Pretty satisfied with the current prescription. They are a dose of relief, dose of reform, dose of security and assurity. Dose of Hope. Dose of Glory. Dose of Faith and Doses of Victory (divine that is). Matter of fact i am so high on them right now, i feel as though i am Alladin floating High on a Persian rug en route to Jerusalem via magreb... Al Quds lana wa Baabda insha2aallah.

I would rather the dose of Army Generals rather than that of pseudo doctors who promise you freedom then trap you with little hope of escape.