Arab Barometer Placed Lebanon At The Top Of Latest Corruption Report

The Arab Barometer Report: Perceptions of Corruption on the Rise Across MENA just placed Lebanon in quite a disappointing ranking according to studies conducted by Princeton University.

The report, published on the World Bank’s blog Arab Voices, also placed it in the lead in multiple of its statistics, which include: Obtaining employment through Wasta, Paying bribe for better educational services, as well as Paying a bribe for better healthcare services, to sadly name a few.

According to Salma Al-Shami, Senior Specialist at the Princeton University’s Arab Barometer research network, Lebanon’s current standing places it as a difficult place to live for multiple reasons.

With “corruption” as a central theme in Lebanon’s 2019 Revolution, as well as among various countries in the region, these numbers are hardly surprising.

Al-Shami stresses: “Arab publics have gathered to decry malfeasance that permeates political and economic structures and ultimately manifests itself in ways that disrupt daily life, be it in the garbage crisis in Lebanon, the cutting of bread and fuel subsidies in Sudan, or the lack of jobs and basic services in Iraq.” 

She further elaborates that, as these grievances have peaked recently with the emergence of several uprisings in the region, the Arab Barometer data reveals a “region-wide trend that complaints of corruption have increased over the past decade.”

The Arab Barometer conducts nationally representative surveys across the MENA region. It tackles everything from job access and creation to educational standards and healthcare.

These results are weighted to reflect the views of “ordinary citizens” in each country. The results show that across the region, the share of those saying there is a large or medium extent of corruption in state institutions has risen from 78% in 2010 to 84% in 2019.

Although Lebanon’s educational system is regarded as one of high standards, the study showed that only 42% of the sample were satisfied with the educational system in Lebanon, while 63% have admitted that paying a bribe is necessary to access better quality educational services. 

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Would you trust a government that had to buy its way into power?⠀ ⠀⠀ ⠀ In Lebanon, the dynamic between money and power is a common obstacle when combating corruption, especially during elections. The Global Corruption Barometer uncovered that in Lebanon “nearly one in two people is offered a bribe in return for their vote and one in four people is threatened with retaliation if they do not vote a certain way”. The political dynamics of the country has created a system that contributes to the widespread corruption as well as the protection of the corrupt individuals in power.⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ During the 2009 and 2018 parliamentary and municipal elections, the Lebanese Transparency Association, Transparency International’s chapter in Lebanon, observed some significant issues that stemmed from gaps in the country’s electoral laws. Regardless of the political party, money can influence votes directly or indirectly. For example, incentives for vote-buying have been increased by a lack of legal clarity on what defines “vote-buying” and a law was introduced recently that raised the upper limit on electoral spending. In the lead-up to the 2018 parliamentary elections, “state institutions illegally employed over 4,500 people and used jobs, scholarships, medical aid and in-kind assistance to allegedly buy their votes and those of their families.”⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ARABIC CAPTION IN COMMENT SECTION – SWIPE FOR ARABIC⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ SOURCE: Global Corruption Barometer Middle East & North Africa 2019 – “Citizens’s Views and Experience of Corruption” (pg. 25) – Transparency International⠀⠀ ⠀⠀ ‎#لبنان_ينتفض ⠀ #LebanonRevolution

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In the areas of Healthcare services, the Lebanese sample expressed a mere 26% satisfaction rate, coupled with a staggering 66% that admit to the need to pay a bribe to obtain better healthcare services in general.

Job creation was one of the most disappointing statistics by far, as the Lebanese Government’s performance in creating jobs was rated satisfactory by a deplorable 4%. Not too surprisingly, 95% expressed that the jobs they wanted were obtained through “wasta”.

“Across the region, people have deemed their basic services, like education and healthcare, as poor and believe bribes are necessary for accessing a better quality of each,” the report stated.

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Lebanon’s economy has been sluggish over the past 10 years. While there are a number of factors behind the deteriorating GDP, the overarching constraint for Lebanon’s economy is the abuse of public office for private gain (aka elite capture) and corruption hidden behind a need for a sectarian power-sharing system. ⠀ ⠀ Although the direct link between corruption and GDP growth is difficult to assess, corruption is found to have negative effects on investments, entrepreneurship, government efficiency, including government expenditures and revenues, and human capital formation. Corruption is also found to impact economic development, though affecting the quality of the environment, health and safety status, income distribution, etc. (Box 1 pg. 5 Issue Paper Corruption and Economic Growth)⠀ ⠀ Tackling the economic crisis requires initiating critical policy actions and reforms in the period ahead, while increasing the different levels of accountabilities and fighting the prevailing corruption. ⠀ ⠀ SWIPE FOR ARABIC⠀ ⠀ منذ عشر سنوات والاقتصاد اللبناني يُعاني من الركود الشديد. ومع أنَّ عوامل مُختلفة تُساهم في تدهور الناتج المحلي الإجمالي، إلا أنَّ العوائق الأساسية أمام الاقتصاد اللبناني تتركز في استغلال المناصب العامة لتحقيق مكاسب خاصة (ما يُعرف بالنُخب القابضة) والفساد الكامن خلف المحاصصة الطائفية للسلطة. ⠀ ⠀ وعلى الرغم من تعذُّر تقييم العلاقة المباشرة بين الفساد ونمو الناتج المحلي الإجمالي، فإنَّ الآثار السلبية للفساد على الاستثمارات وريادة الأعمال والكفاءة الحكومية، بما في ذلك نفقات الحكومة وإيراداتها وتشكيل رأس المال البشري في صفوفها، قد تجلَّت بوضوح. كذلك تمَّ اكتشاف أثر الفساد في التنمية الاقتصادية من خلال تأثيره على عوامل أساسية مثل جودة البيئة والصحة والسلامة العامتَين وتوزيع الدخل، الخ (المربع ١، الصفحة 5، قضية الفساد والنمو الاقتصادي)⠀ ⠀ ولمعالجة الأزمة الاقتصادية في المرحلة المُقبلة لا بُد من البدء بالإجراءات والإصلاحات السياسية المُلحة، بالإضافة إلى تكثيف المساءلة ومُكافحة الفساد السائد.⠀ ⠀ SOURCES: World Bank, GDP Growth (%) Data – & World Bank Group, E. Le Borgne & T. J. Jacobs, Lebanon – Promoting Poverty Reduction and Shared Prosperity, June 2016 & OECD Issue Paper on Corruption and Economic Growth⠀ ‎#لبنان_ينتفض #LebanonRevolution

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It concluded: “Arab publics negatively view their governments’ performance in creating employment opportunities, and say that connections or wasta that corruptly bypass meritocratic or formal processes are quite common, if not frequent.”

With this overall impression circulating even after our region continues to revolt against corruption, one cannot help but wonder whether or not this is a reality we will need to continue to maneuver after Lebanon’s new government is formed, or if next year’s report will hopefully depict a move in the right direction.