Sunday, November 11, 2007

73,245,357,358 and counting

No this post is not about that other counter.

Now if we had a penny (15 Lebanese Liras) for every opinion given on the Lebanese presidential issue we would've paid off all $45 billion of the Hariri debt and then had some left over to cover the sms voting costs to guarantee the next belly dance champion is 100% Lebanese . Alas all these opinions about the Lebanese presidential elections, from Bush and Sarkozy's to the cab drivers' in the streets of Port-au-Prince, are completely worthless. The only opinions that matter are those of Elie Beik Skaff and his colleagues in Parliament. No , Really! Not Fares Soueid nor Walid Mouallem, Not Mohammed Reza Shibani nor any of the French posse that has been dropping by non stop.

So naturally my opinion doesn't matter either. Not that I've given the issue much thought; especially since my man Skaff can't even run for president. It would save Lebanon a lot of trouble now and in the future if he were to be anointed president for life. Come to think of it he could be the compromise dude. The opposition would accept him because he is one of them, and the Hairirists would love his tendency to sell off property.

In any case I highly doubt they will select a president any time soon. Now Even IF they do pick a punching bag for president; NATO, the Arab League, and FIFA will never be able to agree on Imm Micho's replacement at the Ministry of social affairs.

20 comments:

M Bashir said...

you damn right man, i mean right right not right antonym of left, you sound left but you right, did i say that, well let me say it again :)

Mustapha said...

Calling our national debt the "saad Hariri debt" is at best misinformed and at worst a natural result of being brainwashed by New TV and Almanar.

The national debt was accumulated because the Syrian security apparatus kept telling us that it was spent on buying weapons and "unifying our national army" while ending up in some pocket in Damascus.

Jamal said...

Mus- Certainly not the Saad's debt. It's the Rafiq Hariri National Debt. They rename everything in his honor, might as well rename the debt of which he was the true champion, albeit not the only contributor.
The bulk of the public money was and continues to be spent today on Debt servicing (111% of the value of direct taxes and fees in 2005 according to Siniora blance sheet issued last week). Now if you follow the loans trail you'll find out where this money ends up. You got The Syrian pockets right but they also happened to be Partners of Hariri during that heist.

But that's a different topic for a different time. New TV and Al Manar don't do enough, well they dont do anything, to shed light on this issue. They probably dont want to piss off some of their allies who were in on this robbery.


Are you coming by any time soon?

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

mustafa is not at all brainwashed.

poshlemon said...

Jamal,

well, about the belly dance champion being Lebanese, it's a national call!

Ibn Bint Jbeil,

hehe, 3ala aweltak, sa7 mustafa abadan mosh brainwashed.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Its not an issue of brainwashed, which by the way [and as far as I know] Mustapha isn't, but an issue of accuracy.

Hariri was no saint, and some of his cronies are world class slime balls, but to completely disregard the corrosive and highly corrupt activities of the likes of Hobeika, Murr, Berri, anybody associated with the SSNP or Ba'ath, etc... (i.e. Syria's Lebanese goof-troop) when it came to national finances during the 90s is just ridiculous and frankly amateurish.

Irrespective of what you think of the policies themselves (or whether that opinion is based on anything cerebral) I think we can all agree that the actual implementation of the "Hariri economic policies" was...verr├╝ckt.

Mustapha is right - its wrong to call it the Hariri debt simply because the policies he implemented weren't really responsible for much of it.

Salem said...

Jade, if what you say is true, especially the last part about "simply because the policies he implemented weren't really responsible for much of it." then he was a lousy prime minister in the sense that the policies were not his own, they were dictated by other people while funneling the money to all sorts of pockets including his own.
And that went for 15 years. on and off.
Scrutiny should go both ways you know, for objectivity.

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

all lies. nothing is transparent, therefore nothing is true.

"syria's lebanese goof-troop," haha, funny, i like that, "israel's lebanese goof-troop," that's "funny" too, a different kind of funny.

Blacksmith Jade said...

I had a longer comment typed out but some blogger error obliterated it...

...no matter, a quicky version:

Yes to scrutiny both ways - that was the point of my original comment.

That comment tried to point out that the policies may have been Hariri's, but when it came to implementation everyone from Berri to Qanso (to Hariri-ists and Syrian officials) had a thieving hand in the pie. Calling the debt the Hariri debt ignores that and is therefore (by your argument Salem) not objective [and not a lie].

Delirious said...

I'm so happy/proud/ecstatic/moved beyond words that I'm contributing to the wellbeing of my representatives in Parliament: Spa, Eau-De-Vie, VIP treatment... Haram, they deserve it for being holed up in a golden prison for so long... And to think they're doing it all for meeeeeeee me me and my fellow citizens *tear*


... but I digress. We were talking about the Rafiq Hariri National Debt, weren't we?

Salem said...

Hariri international airport
Hariri governmental hospital
Hariri this
Hariri that
And.. Hariri dept.
I say we either name everything after Hariri or nothing for that matter.
Jade, Hariri was the prime minister, i don't know if you understand that, but he was supposed to be responsible for every penny spent from the national treasury, and needless to say that he profited as much as anyone else if not more than Berri, Qanso, Abou Abdo or Abou el Abed.
Hariri created the debt, it was his signature along with Siniora's on every bill, so as far as implementation is concerned, he was also responsible.
(try to log in before opening the comment window, it's error-proof)

bech said...

a point:

it is the Hariri debt and he's the the biggest responsible for it for two reasons:

1- He was managing the public finance portfolio (through seniora etc.). they decided the hike in interest rates and the issuing of TB. the economic and crony reasons are numerous, and there is a huge debate as to whether one should have done this. all in all, it surely benefited the banks to the detriment of the rest of the economy

2- The syrians et al. have indeed picked up commissions here and there, but this has nothing to do, in an economic sense with the debt. See, it is just a question of accounting, Corm explained it in his book "Le Liban contemporain" or in numerous articles. Also, this means there is a huge difference in numbers, (billions from interest rate repayments, to thousand or maybe a million in terms of syrian taxes. See it's like saying that one responsible for the debt would be the low productivity agricultural season that we had over the last few years because we did not get enough revenues for the state treasury.

yaaneh, there is a difference between the fixed amounts being 'stolen' here and there (or lost when a specific sector produces less), and the STRUCTURAL aspect of debt repayment that is boosted to vertiginous levels because of the abnormally high rates and amounts to be repaid. Again, the nature and size of this repayment (the debt itself) will not change in any way if one steals more or less.

3- it is inaccurate to say that it is the 'syrians' who were taking money. there are different poles of cronyist in Syria, and they were served differently (those close to hariri, those close to Lahoud, etc.). Also, more details on this story can be given, i'm just trying to make a point that there are no two different entities (one syrian one lebanese), but more like a bunch of oligarchs with either conflict or common interests at stake.

I'm just trying to help here refine a bit the terms of this endless debate. Tell me if something remains unclear.

bech said...

"when it came to implementation everyone from Berri to Qanso (to Hariri-ists and Syrian officials) had a thieving hand in the pie."

blacksmith kifak waynak ma 3am nchoufak 3a blogna? w sheltna menel links 3andak ya shrik? lah lah..

ok, this does not mean anything. there is no 'implementation of the debt'. You decide on what monetary policy you want to pursue and you just plug in numbers. Buyers come give you money and then you have to pay them back (shit loads in the case of the Hariri dream plan). Actually one of the best functioning institution in the fragmented, factionalized and fucked up Lebanese 'state' is the ministry of finance, funnily enough. When it's about money, believe me, people find quick ways to make things work.

Also because the state is factinalized, ministries are under specific patrons. in the case of finance, except for the brief mandate of Corm with Hoss, it was under the hands of the Hariri clique the whole time. So Berri, Qanso and other demons could not do much about what was going on there.

Last but not least, it is not about stealing. All countries (even el "edama" mennon), have stealing corruption etc. at ridiculously high levels, yaaneh Lebanon is nothing compared) but their monetary policy keeps it going, there economy is working, banks are actually pouring in money in the economy etc.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Hey Bech...haha you know as well as I do that there was no reason for me to visit your blog after M and Apokraphyte left...but thats old news.

As far as your argument is concerned, do you really think the dollar value of the corruption can be limited to a few thousands or millions here and there?

Corruption was/is systematic in Lebanon, and Syrian cronyism and corruption was a part of that system. The effects were not as run-of-mill or as minimal as you make them out to be and the patronage you spoke of ensured that Murr benefited from Ministry of the Interior appropriated projects, that Berri benefited from Reconstruction of the South appropriated projects, that Jumblatt benefited from Ministry of the Displaced appropriated projects, that Franjieh benefited from Minitry of Health appropriated projects, that Qanso benefitted from Ministry of Labour projects, that Hariri-ites benefited from Beirut/Solidere appropriated projects, the list goes on and on [and we still haven't even talked about Oil, Energy, and Electricity projects]...

...and trust me on this one [or look it up yourself], the numbers are not a mere thousands or millions [and I still haven't taken into account the opportunity costs].

As to the economic policies themselves, they were wanting in many ways but, of course, your comment wasn't really about that. If it was, then you might have been inclined to include an analysis of the short-term costs [and the sustainability of those costs] vs long-run benefits derived from an economic policy based on long-term infrastructural investments. But then again, it is hard to do any such analysis when those benefits are blown to smithereens in a July War of a certain group's making and all your left with are burnt cinders and, of course, the debt.

bech said...

sorry long comment here...

Hey Bech...haha you know as well as I do that there was no reason for me to visit your blog after M and Apokraphyte left...but thats old news.

Why? It is good 'general culture' for you...

As far as your argument is concerned, do you really think the dollar value of the corruption can be limited to a few thousands or millions here and there?

Well, neither you nor me can get the numbers, I was trying to make a point of very different financial flows.

Corruption was/is systematic in Lebanon, and Syrian cronyism and corruption was a part of that system. The effects were not as run-of-mill or as minimal as you make them out to be and the patronage you spoke of ensured that Murr benefited from Ministry of the Interior appropriated projects, that Berri benefited from Reconstruction of the South appropriated projects, that Jumblatt benefited from Ministry of the Displaced appropriated projects, that Franjieh benefited from Minitry of Health appropriated projects, that Qanso benefitted from Ministry of Labour projects, that Hariri-ites benefited from Beirut/Solidere appropriated projects, the list goes on and on [and we still haven't even talked about Oil, Energy, and Electricity projects]...

good point. Never said the contrary. My point was to say that corruption has nothing to do with the debt.

...and trust me on this one [or look it up yourself], the numbers are not a mere thousands or millions [and I still haven't taken into account the opportunity costs].

stop using economic jargon it does not suit you and shows you don't know what you are talking about. Besides, you can't look up this number. And it is not important. As I said corruption is part of economic systems. I am pointing out a structural problem in the very way the Lebanese pound came to be defined.

As to the economic policies themselves, they were wanting in many ways but, of course, your comment wasn't really about that. If it was, then you might have been inclined to include an analysis of the short-term costs [and the sustainability of those costs] vs long-run benefits derived from an economic policy based on long-term infrastructural investments. But then again, it is hard to do any such analysis when those benefits are blown to smithereens in a July War of a certain group's making and all your left with are burnt cinders and, of course, the debt.

Hahaha you're funny. You don't understand much it seems then about the economic policy of Hariri and its impact on the Lebanese economy but this is too long of a story to tell here. Let me just illustrate with your example of the “July war”. The Debt has nothing to do with this. The debt has to do with the value of the currency, interest rates, and the amount of T bills you are ready to issue. The way this is decided is between the banks, the central bank, and the ministry of finance. The 'july war' did not put any strains on the value of the currency, check CBs monthly bulletin. And it is logical, because investors thought (in general allies with Hariri inc.) that Hizbullah will be taken out quickly. So there was few money pulled out of the economy. You issue Tbills, or you hike interest rates when you want to re-adjust the value of your currency (because of external shocks, a run down in the economy, capital flight etc.). According to CB, there was no pressure on the currency. Anyway, the debt was created long ago during the nineties and the way they are restructuring it until today is making sure that the money should be repaid without endangering the banking system (yaaneh without hurting financial corporate interest in Lebanon), that's why Lebanese paying taxes in Lebanon are those who will repay the debt. War or no war, nothing is changing, the economy is paralyzed, and there are no long term benefits. This is why now they are desperately trying to search for 'more moderate' approaches to relax the liquidity crunch in the Lebanese market. The ministry of finance himself is starting to talk about changing the way banks work in the country, encourage giving credit to small enterprises, making things move etc. Of course nothing has been done, and this is why there are no 'long-term benefits' to Hariri's policies. Now to be sure, I do believe that Hariri thought sincerely that there will be long-term benefits to what he was doing, although he also knew that he was positioning himself and his partners in a pole-position to control the economy. The problem is he succeeded in doing the latter but not in creating mechanisms for the former.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Haha, do you really want to get into a "who knows more about economics" competition, Bech? Come on, grow up.

I'll help you out a little, the only coherent idea you're getting across is that [for you] the only thing that matters is that there is a debt and that the structure of that debt [and its repayment] is harmful to the everyday citizen. Here structure should mean repyament schedules, interest rate charges, and the currency in which the bulk of that debt is held. Now towards that end, you haven't given a single coherent example.

Oh sure, you've babbled about Tbills and the banks but what have you said? That the July War didn't put any strains on the economy? Haha, you're kidding right? Quote those Central Bank reports all you want (and for that matter be careful which month you look at, there is a lag you know) but I guarantee that you're reading them wrong - or else mis-attributing the causes of the superficial stability [do the Gulf countries' dollar injections into the banking system ring a bell?].

I don't have to remind you Bech [since you're obvioulsy one of the country's leading economic experts...obviously] of the old economics parable of jumping investment figures in any country after a natural disaster - everything that was destroyed needs to be rebuilt afterall [except the disaster in our case was less natural than "divine"]. Again, look a little deeper than a misinterpreted quote.

As far as your ramblings against the banks...I don't get your point [not having attained your mastery of economics, of course], protecting the stability of the banking system is bad? And if I understand you correctly, collecting taxes is bad too right?

Honestly, I don't think you're onto much there. Putting aside the overall tone each and every one of our conversations degenerates to, I think there are a number of things we can agree on, however. The question of the country's credit markets is an important one on which I have two particular comments:

a) there does need to be some openning up of banks' commercial loans to small and medium businesses in the country. That is, afterall, how small ideas become big ones everywhere else in the world. To that end, there needs to be a serious look at the interest rates currently being charged on domestic loans; the benchmark they are set against in view of the presence of most of the national debt on local banks' books; and the overall effect of regional and national politics [and wars] on the interest rates charged when those debts are rolled over.

b) Any and all of the above should take into consideration that the Lebanese economy is not one driven by consumer credit (like the U.S.'s for instance) and should not, therefore, be treated as such. That fact has been the saving grace of the economy for decades now and steps to increase the every day consumer's credit apetite should be approached with care.

In any case, the above is somewhat of a deviation from a regular conversation on the structuring of national debt but that just goes to show you how much you've actually muddled the subject. I have no problem discussing any issue but we should really be clear about what it is we're talking about, and be able to distinguish one issue and the next.

Jamal sorry for the mammoth comments, I know how annoying that can be.

Ibn Bint Jbeil said...

hariri was mr. lebanon, top title, and (because of this, not in spite of it,) he's mr. corruption, top title.

yeah rafiq! rafiq-el-doolar!

Khawwta said...

Akid they won't... Alla yistour

bech said...

i wrote a huge answer to you blackjohn, but for some reason it got lost so i will summarize.

you give a great expose of the fact that 'you know stuff' about how an economic work etc. bravo. But not only do you say a lot of things that don't mean much but you miss the point of the whole discussion.

is hariri "mr debt", as jamal was arguing before? yes he is and for now you did not present one single argument proving the contrary. it is just an accounting evidence.

now just to clarify. debt management is separate from corruptive practices although one can involve the other.

so we are not saying that hariri is 'mr corruption'. he played a part like a lot of people.

however, hariri (and friends) was holding the value of the currency. banking system etc. which actually gives him special leverage over the value of the corruption if you think about it. but that's another point. it may complicate things for now let's just stick to the argument made above.

now for banking policies i can understand why you did not understand what i was talking about, or else you would know what is the real loss incurred by the Lebanese economy (which has nothing to do with corruption per se).

also another story, i explained before but have no strength to do it again. i can advise you some reading if you want.

Blacksmith Jade said...

Haha, well at least you're good for a laugh Bech.

I'll keep this short as there really is no point going further.

You're trying to use an economic argument (barely), taken out of its political context to make a political point - thats what I'm arguing against (the corruption bit formed part of that argument).

By calling it the Hariri debt, you're not trying to make a point about the borrowing (per se), but the lack of results to show for that borrowing - and for that you know there are others with more blame.