With those in government appearing to be playing politics amid such a testing time for Lebanon, criticism of the political establishment is rife.
“It is frustrating indeed because we are at a time when the whole region is facing challenges, and a time when the Lebanese people are expecting a better environment for the economy so that they can find jobs,” Salame said, sharing a sentiment expressed by many ordinary Lebanese. But he added that much of the country’s gridlock is fueled by larger power dynamics in the region — such as the feud between the country’s Sunni and Shia sponsors, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“There are political issues beyond our control, there are struggles for power that are not only driven by internal ambitions but there is a political situation in the region that reflects on our country. But I think there is a need to (make) that effort to start fulfilling the hopes of the people,” he said.
Still, Salame remained optimistic.
“Once this political agreement happens and translates into a government, I think the work is going to start to stimulate the economy and do the investments in the infrastructure. And what is most needed in the reforms is to stop enlarging the public sector and start enhancing the private sector to become more productive,” he said.
Before its 15-year civil war which ended in 1990, Lebanon was essentially driven by the private sector, Salame noted. The public sector represented 17 percent of GDP — now it represents 35 percent of GDP.
“And that means less efficiency, less funds for investment, and more corruption.”
But the real risk remains what hit Lebanon’s growth in the first place: instability in the region as a whole, Salame stressed.
“The political situation, the security situation, this is a region where you have political issues and wars going on. We don’t know where this will end up.”