Mikati 1, Lebanon0.

By Ghassan Karam

Score one for Najib Mikati. He has managed to present a cabinet after almost five months of discussions that at a first glance saves his political future. Mr. Mikati has been able to restore a measure of respectability among his Sunni community in general but has won over the support of his fellow Tripolitans in particular. How could they oppose a cabinet whose head is from Tripoli in addition to two Karami family members (each representing an opposite side) and Mohammad  Safadi? I only wish that Mr. Makati’s survival instinct had not been achieved at the expense of Lebanon. Unfortunately in the calculus of Mr. Mikati personal good trumps general welfare instead of the reverse.

It must be clear that a self made billionaire who was elected to the Lebanese parliament on a ticket supported by March 14 does not have any major differences with the political views or the political beliefs of March 14. He probably has personal differences with the current leader of March 14, Sa’ad Hariri, and that is understandable. But to allow his political ambitions to make him act as an unprincipled politician who is ready to jump ship for the sake of personal gain is unfortunate and disappointing. It is apparent that Najib Mikati, his protestations notwithstanding, has been driven all throughout this period by promoting only his narrow self interest.

Lebanon, at this stage of its political life, could have used best a cabinet that is efficient, competent and effective. An easy and painless step in that direction would have been to stop the silliness of appointing ministers without portfolios. These are totally uncalled for, those appointed to such positions have nothing to do; no bureaucracy to run no projects to undertake and produce no outcomes to be measured by. Ministers with no portfolios simply make governance more complicated dn add to the fiscal burden of the state. The idea is the embodiment of nothing but waste and potential for corruption. The next easy and needed change in cabinet formation is the need to eliminate many and possibly all the cabinets with an annual budget of under $20 million. Can anyone come up with a reasonable scenario of what can be accomplished by a ministry whose annual budget is $ 8 million? Once the fixed costs and the salaries are paid what is it that is left over at the Ministry of the Environment? Enough to print a brochure? This is not to suggest that environmental issues are not important. They are. But does it do the environment any good to appoint a minister without appropriating adequate funds to do the job? If the means to perform a specific task are not available then why the pretense? May I suggest that under such circumstances it would be far better, and more efficient to have such areas set up either as an independent agency or simply as a division of another ministry? But the single most important thing that Mr. Mikati could have done from the first week was to form a cabinet of qualified, independent technocrats whose only aim is to strengthen democratic institutions and build democracy. That is what Lebanon needs. We need a cabinet to come up with a credible plan about how to handle the sovereign debt, create jobs, collect taxes, enforce the law and protect individual human rights.

Instead of the above cabinet, which would have been revolutionary and which would have forced all sides to reevaluate and rethink their political position Mr. Mikati chose to give us more of the same. He gave us a cabinet that is built on the same old fashioned narrow principles that have resulted in all the standoffs and inefficiencies that the country suffers from.

Then there is the question of timing? Did he really need five months in order to come up with the same tired formula or were there other forces at work? Was it only a coincidence that the cabinet was finally formed essentially to favour HA’s allies at the expense of the president only when Damascus telephoned Babda’a? And what about the ever present STL indictments? The threat of these indictments seems to have shaped all Lebanese politics for the past five years. Could it be that Mr. Mikati does not want to be in charge when the indictments are issues? I guess time will tell but if the new cabinet fails to issue a ministerial statement and seek a vote of confidence prior to the release of the indictments that are expected during the first week of July then that would lend more credence to the argument that Mr. Mikati and the president caved in when they did in order to have a different care taker government whereby the ministries of Defense and Interior are under different control. Pity Lebanon, a nation that has no say in the formation of its cabinet and who’s PM has wasted an opportunity to help himself and help the country.

  • kamille1

    excellent, well said,,i agree with you 100%

    • Ghassan Karam

      kamille1,
                  The current system of governance in Lebanon is totally bankrupt.Unless we demonstrate our strong criticism of it then things will not improve.

      • antar2011

        may i ask how?

        is the pen enough?

  • kamille1

    excellent, well said,,i agree with you 100%

    • Ghassan Karam

      kamille1,
                  The current system of governance in Lebanon is totally bankrupt.Unless we demonstrate our strong criticism of it then things will not improve.

  • Anonymous

    excellent, well said,,i agree with you 100%

    • kamille1,
                  The current system of governance in Lebanon is totally bankrupt.Unless we demonstrate our strong criticism of it then things will not improve.

      • Anonymous

        may i ask how?

        is the pen enough?

  • yes i agree

  • yes i agree

  • yes i agree

  • yes i agree

  • yes i agree

  • yes i agree

  • At the expense of Lebanon? you make me laugh. Lebanon needs a government and it needs it know especially with all the outside interference in neighbouring Syria.

    We can’t carry on without government so the minority can get their own way.

    • Ghassan Karam

      alissar,
               The column never called for the continuation of the unacceptable limbo. It called for a quick formation of an effective government.

    • antar2011

      if you think that this govt will make anything better for the lebanese pple than you are dillusional.

      these ministers have no clue in managing their ministry other then stealing its money and bribing here and there to get more money and make the country fall more in debt.

      this govt is a slap in the face to the pple who believed in the cedar’s revolution including aounist.

      those who follow aoun especially those from kesserwan would have just about learnt what it feels to trust someone and stab you in the back…enter aoun.

  • At the expense of Lebanon? you make me laugh. Lebanon needs a government and it needs it know especially with all the outside interference in neighbouring Syria.

    We can’t carry on without government so the minority can get their own way.

    • alissar,
               The column never called for the continuation of the unacceptable limbo. It called for a quick formation of an effective government.

    • Anonymous

      if you think that this govt will make anything better for the lebanese pple than you are dillusional.

      these ministers have no clue in managing their ministry other then stealing its money and bribing here and there to get more money and make the country fall more in debt.

      this govt is a slap in the face to the pple who believed in the cedar’s revolution including aounist.

      those who follow aoun especially those from kesserwan would have just about learnt what it feels to trust someone and stab you in the back…enter aoun.

  • Sebouh80

    From the beginning, we were not expecting in anyway Najib Mikati to deliver a government in line with the famous President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”: Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people, but the question remains unanswered is that was it worth waiting for five consecutive months and in the end getting a government that looks very much similar to Saad Hariri’s previous cabinit.
    Personally, I think the Lebanese style of governments has proven to be “unfunctionable” ever since 2005 and the current government formation proves to the world that the regime is still capable in forming governments even in spite of massive contradictions, but the truth is the regime is struggling in deathbed.
    Finally, as everyone knows Mr.Mikati and his brother Taha are believed to be worth 6 billion dollars combined that is according to the latest Forbes magazine and to go one step further his entire ministers come from the privilged class of billionaires and petty millionaires. This proves the point that the government is nothing more than a factionalized elites dominating the country.
    Mr.Karam,  You pitty Lebanon, but the truth is Lebanese deserve governments like this.

  • Sebouh80

    From the beginning, we were not expecting in anyway Najib Mikati to deliver a government in line with the famous President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”: Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people, but the question remains unanswered is that was it worth waiting for five consecutive months and in the end getting a government that looks very much similar to Saad Hariri’s previous cabinit.
    Personally, I think the Lebanese style of governments has proven to be “unfunctionable” ever since 2005 and the current government formation proves to the world that the regime is still capable in forming governments even in spite of massive contradictions, but the truth is the regime is struggling in deathbed.
    Finally, as everyone knows Mr.Mikati and his brother Taha are believed to be worth 6 billion dollars combined that is according to the latest Forbes magazine and to go one step further his entire ministers come from the privilged class of billionaires and petty millionaires. This proves the point that the government is nothing more than a factionalized elites dominating the country.
    Mr.Karam,  You pitty Lebanon, but the truth is Lebanese deserve governments like this.

  • Anonymous

    From the beginning, we were not expecting in anyway Najib Mikati to deliver a government in line with the famous President Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”: Democracy is direct self-government, over all the people, for all the people, by all the people, but the question remains unanswered is that was it worth waiting for five consecutive months and in the end getting a government that looks very much similar to Saad Hariri’s previous cabinit.
    Personally, I think the Lebanese style of governments has proven to be “unfunctionable” ever since 2005 and the current government formation proves to the world that the regime is still capable in forming governments even in spite of massive contradictions, but the truth is the regime is struggling in deathbed.
    Finally, as everyone knows Mr.Mikati and his brother Taha are believed to be worth 6 billion dollars combined that is according to the latest Forbes magazine and to go one step further his entire ministers come from the privilged class of billionaires and petty millionaires. This proves the point that the government is nothing more than a factionalized elites dominating the country.
    Mr.Karam,  You pitty Lebanon, but the truth is Lebanese deserve governments like this.

  • Sebouh80

    If there is any misunderstanding than I would like to clarrify. What I meant is that if people do not take action  and voice their grievances than in this case they deserve governments like this.

    In other words, you get what you deserve.

  • Sebouh80

    If there is any misunderstanding than I would like to clarrify. What I meant is that if people do not take action  and voice their grievances than in this case they deserve governments like this.

    In other words, you get what you deserve.

  • Anonymous

    If there is any misunderstanding than I would like to clarrify. What I meant is that if people do not take action  and voice their grievances than in this case they deserve governments like this.

    In other words, you get what you deserve.

  • Mosetsfire

    Until Hezbollah is disarmed and brought into the fold of the state the Lebanese cannot abandon sectarianism, but until they abandon this archaic system of being loyal to people based on religion and location, we cannot have a fully functioning government. 

    Our people struggle to understand the concept that government is put in place for the people. People are not and will never be put in place for the government in a system that works. 

    • Ghassan Karam

      Mohamad,
                     There is no doubt that the largest obstacle that Lebanon needs to overcome is for the state to have control over all regions and groups. That ,obviously, implies disarming Hezbollah. But even if that was to take place I am not so sure that we are ready to “abandon sectarianism”. Lets hope that we can .

      • 2160John

        Instead of talking about ways to eliminate national debt or improve the economy to save the Lebanese middle class– all you guys talk about is Hezbollah and its weapons.

        Take out the threat of Israel massacring Lebanese civilians before trying to take the weapons out of the hands of a concerned Lebanese citizen or in this case citizens.

        It’s sad how Lebanese who think they are intellectual compare Lebanon to other countries. Do not forget that militias are legal in America.

        • 5thDrawer

          One of the more sad aspects of the USA … because of faulty understanding of it’s lovely-sounding constitution … and yes, there are anarchistic militias of brain-washed people there too. Lower-class like you perhaps? Fortunately not recognized by most of the voters who still wish to have some democracy.
             But here, take out the threat of Hezzbolla throwing bombs over a border to start war with an ideological ‘enemy’, blowing various people up along with anyone in the wrong spot at the time, or kidnapping them and sending them to Iran, beating peaceful demonstrators as well as families attempting to run a legal business, massacring an election of government and the votes of the people, and trying to decide who should win a talent contest as well as arresting singers when a 4-yr-old song disturbs one idiot, or thinking they have the right to demand punishment for a woman who joins a band in another country and sings for peace, helps a despot in another country against it’s own citizens, grows ‘pot’ in a valley it controls with other ‘militias’ (one could run out of breath), and over all this tells people it exists to ‘protect’ them, as they prevent country-wide services to function for the people – who are forced to listen to hogwash from a ‘Glorious Leader’ in a bunker – and perhaps you can see why we might tend to talk about them. A lot.

          Or maybe you can’t understand a ‘run-on’ sentence. 🙂

    • Ghassan Karam

      Mohamad,
                     There is no doubt that the largest obstacle that Lebanon needs to overcome is for the state to have control over all regions and groups. That ,obviously, implies disarming Hezbollah. But even if that was to take place I am not so sure that we are ready to “abandon sectarianism”. Lets hope that we can .

  • Until Hezbollah is disarmed and brought into the fold of the state the Lebanese cannot abandon sectarianism, but until they abandon this archaic system of being loyal to people based on religion and location, we cannot have a fully functioning government. 

    Our people struggle to understand the concept that government is put in place for the people. People are not and will never be put in place for the government in a system that works. 

    • Mohamad,
                     There is no doubt that the largest obstacle that Lebanon needs to overcome is for the state to have control over all regions and groups. That ,obviously, implies disarming Hezbollah. But even if that was to take place I am not so sure that we are ready to “abandon sectarianism”. Lets hope that we can .

      • Anonymous

        Instead of talking about ways to eliminate national debt or improve the economy to save the Lebanese middle class– all you guys talk about is Hezbollah and its weapons.

        Take out the threat of Israel massacring Lebanese civilians before trying to take the weapons out of the hands of a concerned Lebanese citizen or in this case citizens.

        It’s sad how Lebanese who think they are intellectual compare Lebanon to other countries. Do not forget that militias are legal in America.

        • Anonymous

          One of the more sad aspects of the USA … because of faulty understanding of it’s lovely-sounding constitution … and yes, there are anarchistic militias of brain-washed people there too. Lower-class like you perhaps? Fortunately not recognized by most of the voters who still wish to have some democracy.
             But here, take out the threat of Hezzbolla throwing bombs over a border to start war with an ideological ‘enemy’, blowing various people up along with anyone in the wrong spot at the time, or kidnapping them and sending them to Iran, beating peaceful demonstrators as well as families attempting to run a legal business, massacring an election of government and the votes of the people, and trying to decide who should win a talent contest as well as arresting singers when a 4-yr-old song disturbs one idiot, or thinking they have the right to demand punishment for a woman who joins a band in another country and sings for peace, helps a despot in another country against it’s own citizens, grows ‘pot’ in a valley it controls with other ‘militias’ (one could run out of breath), and over all this tells people it exists to ‘protect’ them, as they prevent country-wide services to function for the people – who are forced to listen to hogwash from a ‘Glorious Leader’ in a bunker – and perhaps you can see why we might tend to talk about them. A lot.

          Or maybe you can’t understand a ‘run-on’ sentence. 🙂

  • Fauzia45

    It is obvious that ¨there were other forces at work¨and a government had to be formed!!The forces are after their interests and a government that ¨is efficient ,competent and effective ¨ or that is going  to strengthen democratic institutions and build democracy ¨ is not their priority !What Lebanon needs are real statesmen that place themselves at the service of their country first and serve their people ,meet their demands, protect them from dangers and threats !

    • Ghassan Karam

      Fauzia, As often is the case, you have the right recipe. Now let us go out and find these leaders 🙂

  • Anonymous

    It is obvious that ¨there were other forces at work¨and a government had to be formed!!The forces are after their interests and a government that ¨is efficient ,competent and effective ¨ or that is going  to strengthen democratic institutions and build democracy ¨ is not their priority !What Lebanon needs are real statesmen that place themselves at the service of their country first and serve their people ,meet their demands, protect them from dangers and threats !

    • Fauzia, As often is the case, you have the right recipe. Now let us go out and find these leaders 🙂

  • What Lebanon needs is clean sweep of all current or former politicians. Politicians should be elected on ability to improve peoples quality of life, not sectarian affiliations and those the deepest pockets to buy votes. Lebanon is nothing but a Mafia controlled personal Fiefdom of the same revolving dynasty of “Zaeems.”  Why spend millions on elections when a ministers income is only about $150,000 a year?

    • Ghassan Karam

      Baibars,
                 Government is not supposed to belong to elites only. That is why $150,000 is way too high. My guess is that peoples representatives should not be paid more than twice the median income.

  • What Lebanon needs is clean sweep of all current or former politicians. Politicians should be elected on ability to improve peoples quality of life, not sectarian affiliations and those the deepest pockets to buy votes. Lebanon is nothing but a Mafia controlled personal Fiefdom of the same revolving dynasty of “Zaeems.”  Why spend millions on elections when a ministers income is only about $150,000 a year?

    • Baibars,
                 Government is not supposed to belong to elites only. That is why $150,000 is way too high. My guess is that peoples representatives should not be paid more than twice the median income.

    • Baibars,
                 Government is not supposed to belong to elites only. That is why $150,000 is way too high. My guess is that peoples representatives should not be paid more than twice the median income.

  • 5thDrawer

    I thought they brought him in as a temporary Referee that everyone agreed could call the shots until they ‘discovered’ who could work together.
      This is a mess it seems. One day after making up a cabinet, and suddenly everyone has a different opinion about the good and the bad of the government? Stupid !!!  How about simply sitting down and running a country efficiently for a change – for the good of ALL Lebanon’s own people. ????  Electricity, water, pollution, economy, jobs – none of that is ‘religious’ in nature. Silence the religious ‘rightists’. Israel is not attacking, and Syria has enough problems trying to keep some of their own people alive at the moment … Lebanon needs to be working and functioning. Prayers won’t get it done, or all all the gloomy bitching either.

    • Ghassan Karam

      5th drawer,
                     Mikati had a golden opportunity to force everyone to consider what is the good of the country instead of the selfish prisms that everyone has been using. Unfortunately he chose not to take advantage of the special circumstances.

  • Anonymous

    I thought they brought him in as a temporary Referee that everyone agreed could call the shots until they ‘discovered’ who could work together.
      This is a mess it seems. One day after making up a cabinet, and suddenly everyone has a different opinion about the good and the bad of the government? Stupid !!!  How about simply sitting down and running a country efficiently for a change – for the good of ALL Lebanon’s own people. ????  Electricity, water, pollution, economy, jobs – none of that is ‘religious’ in nature. Silence the religious ‘rightists’. Israel is not attacking, and Syria has enough problems trying to keep some of their own people alive at the moment … Lebanon needs to be working and functioning. Prayers won’t get it done, or all all the gloomy bitching either.

    • 5th drawer,
                     Mikati had a golden opportunity to force everyone to consider what is the good of the country instead of the selfish prisms that everyone has been using. Unfortunately he chose not to take advantage of the special circumstances.

  • antar2011

    the way this cabinet was formed gives one impression…it is made outside lebanon.

    • Ghassan Karam

      anatar2011,
                      The timing and the composition sure raise questions.

  • Anonymous

    the way this cabinet was formed gives one impression…it is made outside lebanon.

    • anatar2011,
                      The timing and the composition sure raise questions.

  • J J

    The Lebanese people are still tribal….let’s move  on from the Neolithic era and into an era of respect and independence. 

  • J J

    The Lebanese people are still tribal….let’s move  on from the Neolithic era and into an era of respect and independence. 

  • J J

    The Lebanese people are still tribal….let’s move  on from the Neolithic era and into an era of respect and independence. 

  • leobetapar

    that the only analyst in the world who don’t know that a cabinet issue of election is a political body>This strange guy want something like what the Belgium people have one “a defaut de” you very strange where do you come from Neptune

  • Anonymous

    that the only analyst in the world who don’t know that a cabinet issue of election is a political body>This strange guy want something like what the Belgium people have one “a defaut de” you very strange where do you come from Neptune