The relationship between natural resources and corruption in Lebanon.

My Lebanon is a place of beauty and dreams of enchanting valleys and splendid mountains.. Your Lebanon is empty and fleeting, whereas my Lebanon will endure forever – Khalil Gibran.

Sadly, the words of Khalil Gibran are partially true. In the present times, one of the burgeoning problems in Lebanon has been the high level of corruption. Corruption in Lebanon is a major obstacle for an investor looking for opportunities to invest in Lebanon. Despite being a punishable offence, corruption is wide spread in Lebanon. The situation is dire and even basic services in the country.

Lebanon ranks 143 in the annual corruption index published by the Transparency International in 2017. This is an indicator of the present conditions in Lebanon. A major effect of the widespread corruption in Lebanon has been on the natural resources of Lebanon. The natural resources of the country have depleted with the increasing rates of corruption.

State of Affairs in Lebanon

The horror stories do not end here. Sand and rock is squandered by excavators do give way to high rise apartments and coastal hotels.The mindless dumping of pollutants into the sea have forced people to stop consuming fish caught. The Lebanese government has favoured fiscal measures and other norms. But the government has done so without any regard to the condition of the environment. The National Report on the Environment and Development in Lebanon which was published in 1991 supports this proposition. As per the report, “no reference has ever been made on the impact of industry on the surroundings or on the protection of the environment, although development in any given sector affects the environment and other sectors in a positive or negative manner”

As discussed above, pollution has had a major role to play in the depletion of the natural resources. One must be mindful that there is a deep co-relation between corrupt activities and levels of pollution in an environment. Studies show that widespread pollution may arise from several “shadow economies”. These are economies which are outside the reach of the government. Kickbacks, bribes and other means of corruption are widespread in such shadow economies. This has a devastating effect on the natural resources. People engaged in such shadow economies degrade both renewable and non-renewable resources. Corrupt economies such as Lebanon are bound have a higher percentage of such people.

There are several sources of pollution in Lebanon. The industries operating in Lebanon release toxic matters in the air and water . The fuel used in Lebanon has a very high sulphur content. Many industries such as cement, oil refineries, petroleum industries make use of such fuel. These industries are the major pollutants of the environment. Due to widespread corruption in Lebanon, these industries are never compliant with laws and regulations.

The waste management is unregulated and emissions are released into the air and water without proper management. In Lebanon, piles of waste material is discharged into the sea without any waste management . Such hazardous discharges have increased the levels of water pollution. It has also degraded the natural resources. The danger was demonstrated by the group of activist decided to film the poor water quality and visibility near a dump near Lebanon’s airport. The diver who undertook the project vomited five times when he came up. This was due to the stench in the water caused by the pollutants. The toxins in the sea will deplete the marine life completely. Unregulated landfills of waste material also deplete the forests and other natural resources.

Economists have argued that in developing countries, industries enjoy a bad governance structure. Lucrative opportunities are offered to such firms with little or no control. This results in increased levels of pollution. Finally, it leads to depletion of natural resources of the country. The situation in Lebanon is something similar. Laws relating to public procurement are poor. According to studies conducted, companies often offer bribes to secure government contracts. In a similar manner, public funds are diverted for non-public use. Public contracts are often awarded on the basis of mutual agreement. There is no proper tendering process for awarding contracts.

Conclusion

An urgent intervention of the government is much needed. Otherwise, Lebanon is headed towards a disaster. The governance structure in Lebanon should be overhauled. This is to ensure that industries only operate with proper licenses and consents. The overhauled structure must account for the anti-corruption framework before legislating any laws. A strong governance structure will ensure that industries do not enjoy kickbacks. It will also ensure that they do not get away with non-compliance with environmental laws. Without this, we are looking at a bleak future for Lebanon depleted of all its resources.

References

  1. https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/beirut-s-beaches-blighted-by-the-rubbish-crisis-1.615291
  2. http://almashriq.hiof.no/lebanon/300/360/363/363.7/humanimp2.html
  3. https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/lebanon-mountains-environmental-destruction-quarrying-construction-industry-beirut-why-a8388006.html
  4. https://www.thenational.ae/world/mena/beirut-s-beaches-blighted-by-the-rubbish-crisis-1.615291

About the author

Financial advisor to UHNWI, private entities, family offices, and companies. Certified Anti-Corruption Manager from The American Anti-Corruption Institute

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