The miraculous account

March 2002

The text criticizes a project of law (that has been passed later on) establishing a segregated account for the Treasury that allocates, with a privilege, the proceeds of privatization, the foreseen primary surplus in the budget and the proceeds of the sale of future public revenues (hidden under the title of securitization), to the debt service. This privilege is not different in its principle from the formulas of the Public Debt Funds that the colonial powers imposed on the Ottoman Empire or on Egypt or on China in the XIXth century but in the fact that the action is voluntary in Lebanon! The project of law introduces a fundamental inequality in the responsibilities of the state in favour of the creditors and reduces almost to nothing the margins of action of the state.

The critic was the base of a written question and a procedure of invalidation in front of the Constitutional Council that were presented by a group of deputies and were unsurprisingly rejected.

The text is still valid but is not applied in practise because of the many internal contradictions it bears.

 

PDF - 112.4 kb
4 p. (in arabic)

Preliminary study of the consequences of Paris 2 Conference

December 2002

Analytical and prospective document, written on the spot, less than one month after the holding of the Paris 2 Conference (where nearly 3 billions USD were advanced to the Lebanese Government at concessionary conditions and with no conditionality).

The document replaces the Paris 2 operation in its effective financial and political context, taking into account of the propaganda and the cosmetic simulations.

It assesses its impacts on public debt, on the Central bank, on commercial banks and on the main macroeconomic aggregates.

It shows, in particular, the amplification effect that the Central Bank realized with the Lebanese banks and that goes far beyond the strict effect of the Paris 2 operation, underlining the particularities of the behaviours of the international and domestic actors: politicians, bankers and financiers. Paris 2 appears in this perspective as a coordinated international political action (mainly French-Saudi) aiming at a financial rescuing that would preserve the status quo in Lebanon and Syria, and achieved in a narrow and very particular political window, coupled, internally, with a taming action, led by the Central bank, of the banking sector, with a major reallocation of financial risks.

 

PDF - 219.1 kb
27 p. (in french)
PDF - 360.5 kb
27 p. (in arabic)

Financial correction program 1998-1999

August 2003

This work constitutes the first attempt ( and probably the most serious until now) to present a detailed, quantified and scheduled action plan aiming at correcting the serious distortions that affect public finance in Lebanon. It has been carried, on a voluntary basis, by the author and Makram Sader (with the assistance of Iskandar Moukarbel and some young economists), in the end of 1998 and in the beginning of 1999 and submitted to the Lebanese Government who constituted a Ministerial Commission that held regular weekly meetings to discuss it.

It was approved, in a modified and sometimes distorted version by the Council of Ministers but was not applied apart from selective measures taken by that same Government or by the various subsequent ones, with years of delay (while problems were aggravating dangerously):

The document has been published in 2003, accompanied by a detailed study of the conditions of its elaboration, the circumstances and the reasons of the failure of the attempt of reform and an analysis of the subsequent economic and political developments, under the title “The chances of avoiding the crisis and the conditions of overcoming it; story of an attempt of reform” (in Arabic), Dar al Nahar, August 2003, 327p.

A socioeconomic program for Lebanon

Editor Lebanese Center for Policy Studies LCPS, 320 p, bilingual book in Arabic and French

 

March 2006

The book takes into account the dramatic developments that occurred during 2005 and aims at participating in the search for an exit from the political deadlock by proposing a program for socioeconomic action. This document updates the proposals of financial reform presented in 1999 and broadens them. It fits in the perspective of the long awaited debate on the reconstruction of the Lebanese state structure after the civil war and the period of the Syrian hegemony. Thus it is first addressed to the Lebanese but also to the external parties, states and international organisations, who have been showing for a period of time a really exceptional attention to Lebanon, hoping to contribute in minimizing the extent of reciprocal (and asymmetric) manipulations between the interior and the exterior.

The book served as a background for a closed seminar held in April 2006, under the same title, with the participation of officials and of economists from Lebanon and from the World Bank (presentation of the proceedings)

 

PDF - 587.4 kb
58 p. (in arabic)

 

PDF - 287.5 kb
58 p. (in French)

 

 

Proposition of law instituting a pension system in Lebanon

June 2006

This proposition of law has been presented by a group of MP’s from the “Block of Change and Reform” in June 2006.

The text integrates the previous formulations on the same subject, since Hoss’s Government in 2000, going through the Ministerial Commissions set up by the various Hariri’s Governments under the chairmanship of Issam Fares, up to Karame’s Government who, after substantial amendments to the project prepared by the Commissions, sent a bill of law to the parliament.

The main differences with the previous versions relate to four ideas:

  1. Generalise the pension system to all the categories of the active resident population and, on a voluntary basis, to the Lebanese living and working abroad ;
  2. Make effective the protection of the workers’ savings and the redistributive commitments of the state built in the system, notably against the risks, that are very real, of seizure by the state who wants to place its debt titles with captive investors and reduce its deficits through the accumulation of arrears ;
  3. Separate at an institutional level the pension system from the other components of Social Security: health insurance, family allocations, risks of death, work accidents, etc. because the accumulation of reserves in the pension system encourages laxity and looting in the management of the mutualisable risks, whether from the side of the state or the administration or the various suppliers of services ;
  4. make the new system immediately applicable by organizing the cut-off in the law and by implementing a direction body to manage the transition, enjoying the full powers of the Board, without waiting for application regulations that might never come or that might wait for the usual sectarian and clientelistic arrangements.

This text might create a breach in political landscape because it organises a balanced arbitrage between the interests in place. It also sets the reforms and the dialogue with the international organisations on a clear and tangible base.

 

PDF - 141.8 kb
(in arabic)

 

Readings in the destruction and orientations for reconstruction

August 2006

Orientation document on the reconstruction in Lebanon after the Israeli aggression in July 2006.

The text has been written while the combats were still going on and the field teams were trying to assess the extent of the damage caused by the Israelis. It aims at formulating a strategy for reconstruction that could launch, on the basis of the unexpected military achievement of the Lebanese Resistance, a process of reconstitution of the Lebanese State, on the eve of expected international conferences on Reconstruction and Economic Reforms in Lebanon.

The central idea is that the communitarian character of the war having been imposed by the aggressor, the response should be that of a Unitarian state, rejecting the easy solutions of localised interventions left to the choice of the “donors” and the “friends” of this and that party, and framing the compensations on the basis of “generic” and not exceptional and specific criteria.

PDF - 135.3 kb
12 p. (in arabic)
PDF - 71.5 kb
12 p. (in french)
PDF - 233.1 kb
article in AnNahar (in arabic)

Observatory of the Public Matter in Lebanon – Macha’

Charter of foundation of the association
November 2006

Project of creation of a thinking and research association about the economic and socio-political matters at stake in Lebanon or on the basis of the Lebanese case.

The text presents :

  1. The reasons for creating the association
  2. The proposed formula
  3. The methodology of work
  4. The axes and themes of research

 

PDF - 131.2 kb
15 p. (in french)
PDF - 129.3 kb
15 p. (in arabic)

Exploring Lebanon’s Growth Prospects

Jean-Claude Berthelemy,Sebastien Dessus & Charbel Nahas

World Bank Policy Research Working Paper Series, number 4332

August 2007
This paper attempts to identify Lebanon ’ s greatest constraints to economic growth, following a growth diagnosis approach. It concludes that fiscal imbalances and barriers to entry are most binding on long-term growth. Macroeconomic imbalances and related perceived risks affect the nature of investment decisions in Lebanon, in favor of liquid instruments rather than longer-term productive investments. Further, many barriers to entry discourage agents from investing in a number of markets: legal impediments to competition, corruption, and a set of fiscal incentives favoring the allocation of resources to non-tradable sectors, where potential demand and investment opportunities are scarcer. In turn, using a steady-state computable general equilibrium model, the paper assesses the long-term growth impact of a selected set of policy reforms envisaged to lift such constraints. Results suggest that 1 to 2 percentage points of additional GDP growth per year could be gained through public expenditure reform, greater domestic competition, and tax harmonization.

 

PDF - 825.9 kb
32 p. (in english)