Securing a job in Lebanon: A rigid quota system and irrelevance of qualifications

Friday 14 January 202208:15 pm
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محاصصة وضرب لمبدأ الكفاءة... للتوظُّف والترقي في لبنان عليك الاستزلام لـ"الزعيم"

Offices, near-empty and abandoned by employees, an eerie calm in the Ministry of Finance. No noise can be heard here aside from the intermittent sound of footsteps. The head of the Tax Legislation Department at the Ministry of Finance, Walid El Chaar, sits behind his desk.

In front of him lies a stack of documents. He no longer shows up at the office on a daily basis, just like many other employees who are staying home as the economic collapse worsens in Lebanon.

“Our salary can no longer cover the daily commute to work, so any employee who refuses to be a part of the system of favoritism, nepotism and bribery, prefers to come on specific days of the week,” he said.

EL Chaar, in his fifties, entered the civil service sector through a competition held by the Civil Service Council in 1994. He excelled in his course, and continued to develop himself and improve his skills, getting a doctorate in business administration during the Covid pandemic. Today, he is looking forward to getting out of public service as soon as possible.

Has the founder of the Association of Public Administration Employees stopped “fighting back”? He answers: “We have given up.”

One of the main goals of the association is to keep politics and sectarianism out of public service, but Walid and his colleagues failed to do so because sectarianism is “embedded within the public administration.” He says, “The sectarian system has directly affected when it comes to promotion,” adding, “In the public administration in Lebanon, any promotion to the first or second degree can only be done by a decree issued by the Council of Ministers, and this is where politics and sectarianism step in.”

Today, Walid is the head of a department. But the ones ahead of him there on the career ladder have not outdone him, neither in skills nor in educational qualifications.

“In the directorate where I’m the head of a department, the director belongs to the Sunni sect and the general director is from the Maronite sect. Therefore, as a Druze, I cannot compete for any of these positions, and so my path for promotion is blocked,” he explains.

What’s more, “Even within the same sect that I belong to, they do not choose the best, but rather whoever’s closest to the leader. I competed with a former colleague for the position of Head of the Audit and Import Department in the Ministry of Finance in 2018, and the sect leader (head of the Progressive Socialist Party Walid Jumblatt) had the final word at the time. He chose her because she’s related to him, irrespective of merit or competence, and after that she was appointed as a minister in the government of Hassan Diab,” he recounts.

He also tells of how a colleague of his in the department had once won the same competition he did. Today, he is the Director General of the Ministry of Finance. “He was promoted, and even though he is both worthy and competent, they did not take the order of the promotion cycle into account when appointing. They do not even recognize it and do not recognize academic achievement either. All this indicates the fundamental reality that sectarianism is in complete control of the administration,” he comments.

The “injustice” that Walid was subjected to prompted him to fight back by establishing the Association of Public Administration Employees in 2011. He says, “I do not regret my experience in the administration because it has given me a lot. I helped serve my people, but I was not able to realize my potential, neither financially nor morally. There are no horizons here. I resisted, but the existing reality overpowered me, and I gave in.”

The standards of competency — at the bottom of the ladder

Walid’s case reflects the cases of hundreds of employees in the public administration in Lebanon. It is an issue based on “an unfair system of employment that is considered one of the most powerful weapons in the hands of sectarian and political channels of clientelism,” says Professor of Political and Administrative Sciences Jennifer Layoun.: “The sectarian system does not distribute jobs equally among the sects, since the distribution takes place between the major sects, while the chances of the members of the smaller sects are almost non-existent, and we rarely find employees from the smaller sects in high positions.”

The “major sects” in Lebanon are the sects with the largest number of followers, namely the Maronites, the Orthodox and Catholics among Christians, and the Sunnis, Shiites and Druze among Muslims. As for the small sects, they are all that remain of the Syriacs, the Assyrians, the Alawites, etc. Even among the major sects themselves, things are rarely equal. The Maronites dominate most of the job positions that are allocated to Christians, while Sunnis and Shiites dominate most of the job positions assigned to Muslims.

Layoun adds, “The employment system is also based on quotas. Each political party gets a share from within the quota reserved for the sect it represents. The party distributes these quotas across its electoral districts. The political parties ask for employees from the major sects that have a weighty electoral influence, while the chances of the smaller sects are lower due to the smaller need for them (electorally).”

This is how competition between employees is subject to sectarian quotas and regional partisan shares, instead of being subject to criteria aimed at improving job performance and public services. What about the standards of competency? Layoun answers, “It is at the bottom of the list of priorities in the Lebanese career system. The favorites are those who belong to the major sects, those who are affiliated with the strongest parties, and those closest to the leader.”

The norms of sectarian distribution

The injustice Walid was subjected to during his 27 years in the public administration had also been done to Nabil. At first, he was hesitant to talk about his experience that he describes as “very bitter”. The officer, who is in his thirties and prefers to go by a pseudonym due to the sensitive position he occupies in one of the technical sectors in the Lebanese army, points out that the country’s military establishment has not been immune to the “disease of sectarianism”. He tells Raseef22, “One of the military officials fought with me and denied me my rights to getting promoted, because I belong to a sect other than his. He openly spoke about this, but no one could question him on it or hold him accountable.”

In the Lebanese army, just like in any other security establishment in Lebanon, all the major job positions are carefully distributed among the sects. For instance, the army commander is a Maronite and so is the director of intelligence, while it is customary that the chief of staff comes from the Druze community, whereas the distribution of the four deputies of the chief of staff is based on the principle of ethnic and sectarian balance (currently, Shiite for operations, Armenian Orthodox for equipment, Maronite for planning, and Sunni for many). On the other hand, and in accordance with the principle of “sectarian balance”, the position of the Director General of the Internal Security Forces is reserved for the Sunni sect, and the position of the General Director of the Lebanese General Security is left for the Shiite sect.

In 1924, with support from the leftist coalition that came to power in France, High Commissioner Maurice Sarrail attempted to draft a secular constitution for Lebanon but was met with opposition from sect leaders, especially the Maronite Patriarchate

“This system, which is based on the principle of sectarian balance in the public administration, dates back to before the State of Greater Lebanon was declared in 1920. The principle of representing the sects was relatively adopted according to their numerical presence in the system of the two district offices and in the board of directors of the Mount Lebanon Mutasarrifate during the Ottoman Sultanate. The French mandate followed its adoption by forming representative councils, before the establishment of the Lebanese constitution in 1926,” former Governor of Beirut and researcher in public law and administration, Judge Ziad Shabib explains to Raseef22.

In 1924, with the support of the leftist coalition that came to power in France, the French High Commissioner, General Maurice Paul Sarrail, attempted to draft a secular constitution for the state of Lebanon, but he was met with complete rejection from the leaders of the sects in Lebanon, especially the Maronite Patriarchate. According to Shabib, Sarrail was subsequently replaced by a civilian, High Commissioner Henri de Jouvenel, who drafted a constitution approved by the Lebanese Representative Council in 1926.

He continues, “The 1926 constitution enshrined the system of confessional representation, with Article 95 stipulating that — as an interim measure, and in the interests of justice and harmony, religious communities shall be equitably represented in public employment and in the formation of the Government, provided that the well-being of the State is not harmed or prejudiced.”

This constitutional article is enshrined in Legislative Decree No. 112 of 1959, which established the “employee system”. Article 96 of the decree stipulates that “when appointing employees, the provisions of Article 95 of the Constitution shall be taken into account.”

On September 21, 1990, many constitutional articles were amended in implementation of the National Accord Document in the Taif Agreement that ended the civil war. One such clause is Article 95, which came to stipulate that, “during the interim period,” —that is, until political sectarianism is abolished— “religious communities shall be represented in a just and equitable fashion in the formation of the Government.” It also states that “the principle of confessional representation in public service jobs, in the judiciary, in the military and security institutions, and in public and mixed agencies are to be canceled in accordance with the requirements of national reconciliation; they shall be replaced by the principle of expertise and competence. However, Grade One posts and their equivalents are exempt from this rule, and the posts must be distributed equally between Christians and Muslims without reserving any particular job for any confessional group but rather applying the principles of expertise and competence.

Shabib says that “the norms that were enshrined over the years were stronger than the constitutional texts themselves.” Despite constitutional amendments, the sectarian quota system continues to reign, in what is called the “6 et 6 bis” rule (meaning the ‘6 and 6 repeated’ rule) in Lebanon.

The aforementioned rule, which is used to express the reality of the distribution of posts between Christians and Muslims equally, took its name from two letters sent by the President of Lebanon Emile Eddé to the French High Commissioner Damien de Martel in 1936. The exchange of letters had been to discuss the “Treaty of Friendship and Alliance” between Lebanon and the French Mandatory at the time, and the first was dubbed ‘letter no. 6’, while the second was  ‘letter no. 6B’.

Within these letters, the Lebanese government pledged to “guarantee the equal civic and political rights of citizens without discrimination,” and to ensure the “equitable representation of the country’s different ‘components’ (‘sects’) in all government posts.” According to a 1932 census, the last official census conducted in Lebanon, this representation saw a distribution of five jobs for Muslims compared to six for Christians — or a ratio of 6:5 in favor of Christians to Muslims.

During that time, Shabib explains, “there was strong refusal from Muslims — the Sunnis in particular— over becoming affiliated to the state of Lebanon, since they considered themselves a part of the Arab nation that was subject to the Ottoman Sultanate,” before they changed their orientation in 1936.

Later, the French Parliament abstained from voting on the “Treaty of Friendship and Alliance" with Lebanon, and so the treaty fell, but the reality imposed by the “6 et 6 bis” letter remained.

After Lebanon’s independence in 1943, a new custom appeared; distributing the first and third top authorities to the Maronites and the Sunnis respectively, in what is now known as the “National Pact”, an unwritten agreement between the then-president, Bechara El Khoury, and then Prime Minister Riad Al Solh. Four years later, specifically from 1947 and onwards, began the custom of a Shiite holding the second top authority.

Shabib says that, in the National Pact, “The two main parties in the state rejected any foreign subordination or dependence on the outside, meaning the Sunnis’ subordination to the Arabs and the Christians to France. Thus a governance approach based on a ‘real partnership’ that cemented the notion of an ultimate belonging to Lebanon was established. This was the positive aspect of the charter. But in its negative aspect, it established a power-sharing system, instead of working to establish a citizen’s state, and it consolidated the fact that there’s no access to public office or to public services except through the sect.

In Shabib’s opinion, “the fact that the religious authorities have acquired these powers guarantees their sectarian loyalty to them. After the civil war, this rule became more deeply rooted, when the country’s warlords applied it with a greater confessionalism.”

The system is more powerful than the employee

The sectarian quota system has greatly affected Danny in Banque du Liban. Preferring to use a pseudonym due to his job status, he says, “I have spent more than twenty years in the Banque du Liban. Today I’m thinking of leaving, and I’m looking for the right opportunity to get out of this country. There are no horizons here.”

Danny’s decision comes despite the fact that the Banque du Liban is considered one of the most prestigious administrations in the state of Lebanon. The collapse of the Lebanese pound, which led to a sharp decrease in the value of his salary, also played a big part in his decision. But he mostly focuses on the injustice he was subjected to when it came to the administrative promotions there. Danny is a part of the Catholic community, the third largest Christian denomination in Lebanon. The number of posts and positions that its members can have in public office is limited. For example, there is only one Catholic head manager out of ten in the Banque du Liban.

I've been waiting for a promotion for 5 years. When I follow up on the issue, the response is that there are no Shiites to promote in balance, while other times it’s that I have to wait for someone from my sect to leave so I could take his post

This reality has had a direct impact on Danny’s career goals and ambitions. He tells Raseef22, “The most important thing is that each sect has a specified quota that must be respected. The quota-based sectarian system is more important than competency. For example, if a Sunni manager retires, they look for another Sunni employee to promote in order to replace him, even if he is much less competent than another Catholic employee eligible for the post. And if they are unable to find a Sunni employee within the same department, they would promote an employee from another sect to this post and give a different position in another department to the Sunni sect.”

He adds, “I have been waiting for a promotion for five years. When I ask or follow up on the issue, sometimes the response is that there are no Shiites to promote in exchange, and therefore I cannot be promoted, while other times it’s that I have to wait for someone from my own sect to leave the administration, so that I could take his post. And after all this time and waiting, I won’t be the only one applying for a promotion or position. Other employees of my sect will use all their connections to get their hands on the vacant managerial position.”

Danny states that, “A short while ago, the administration received a call from former Prime Minister Saad Hariri, asking for the promotion of a Sunni employee before she went into retirement. The goal was to raise her pension, and of course he got what he wanted. In exchange, a Shiite manager was promoted, after having consulted Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri in order to choose the person he favors for the promotion. This employee had not even expected a promotion, but the sectarian balance here necessitates it. A Christian manager was promoted, but the Free Patriotic Movement party objected to the promotion of two Muslim managers in exchange for one Christian under the pretext of not respecting the sectarian balance.”

Danny today is faced with two options: either he accepts the fait accompli, does his job as required without putting in any extra effort, and waits for the opportunity to leave the administration; Or rise up against and fight the system and, as he put it, “threaten his family’s livelihood”. He concludes, “I am aware that in the end, the regime is more powerful than I am and cannot be changed, so I am waiting for the right opportunity to leave the country.”

Between political scheming and limited ambition

Rabea stands away from his colleagues so that he can speak freely. Rabea (pseudonym) is a young man in his twenties who asked that his real name be kept secret to avoid harassment at work. He majored in the field of telecommunications, and applied to work in one of the only two companies ruling the cellular sector in Lebanon. He excelled in the written exam, passed the interview, and then passed the trial stage in 2008 to keep his position.

Rabea applied for this job thinking that the work environment within private companies would be different, even if they do operate the cellular communications sector. This was how things were before the state took over the management of the two companies through the Ministry of Communications in 2020.

He says that he was “very mistaken”. “In these companies, each sect has a department it controls through its active party. There are certain departments affiliated with certain sects. For example, the IT management sector belongs to the Shiite denomination under the control of the Shiite duo, Hezbollah and Amal; while the maintenance sector belongs to the Sunnis and is under the control of the Future Movement; whereas the call center services sector is for Christians under the control of the Free Patriotic Movement.”

Speaking on the relationship between these sectors, Rabea explains to Raseef22 that, “It is not possible to transfer any employee from one sector to another without a reverse transfer of another employee from the sect that controls the sector he is requesting to move to. This is what happened to me. After working in the sector that’s controlled by Christians, I began to experience harassment from the manager in charge due to my political views. I joined the company when the Free Patriotic Movement was taking over the Ministry of Communications. At that time I was closely affiliated with the party and its beliefs, but then I soon distanced myself from it and began to express my opposing views via social media. So my manager began to harass me by marginalizing me or reducing my work authority.”

Rabea turned to someone he knew with ties to the Shiite duo, and was quickly transferred to work within a sector under the duo’s control. “Here, no one bothers me. I am from another sect, and any sort of harassment would be considered sectarian discrimination, but this means that I will not advance or get promoted. In this administration, the priority goes to the members of the sect in control. I am faced with two options: either I submit to the political scheming in the department within my sect, or I succumb to the limitations that would result from working in a sector controlled by another sect.”

Ramzi Abou Ismail, a researcher specializing in political psychology and lecturer at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom, says, “The established norms are based on the ‘quota system’ adopted by the Lebanese sects ‘for fear of each other’. The current employment system in Lebanon is sustaining the abnormal development of the Lebanese identity. Lebanon is a hybrid nation, whose groups it’s made up of did not go through a natural development, and therefore these identities did not mature to form a sense of common affiliation.” He tells Raseef22, “It was supposed to put a system in place that would protect these identities from each other, because they fear each other and do not have a common sense of affiliation, but with time, the system turned into an established norm based on social injustice.”

Abou Ismail adds, “We established the unjust ‘sectarian quota’ system to protect ourselves from one another, since members of all the sects feel that they are oppressed and do not belong unless within their own group. We divided employment posts and gave religious authority the right to determine who represents the sect and who serves its interests. The employee preserves ‘favors’ for the sect leader, as he recognizes his authority over this sect.”

The quota system has become leverage in the hands of the parties, not only within the sect, but also in the face of other political parties. Employees often suffer from the brunt of the “political feuds and rivalries” that at times paralyze administrative work and at other times stand in the way of managerial appointments.

This has happened time and again over the past decade. The Free Patriotic Movement suspended several appointments that affected the judiciary, the military, and civil administrations under the slogan: “Securing the rights of Christians”.

For example, the appointment of the President of the Supreme Judicial Council was disrupted between 2011 and 2012 as a result of a political dispute between former President Michel Suleiman and then head of the largest Christian parliamentary bloc, Michel Aoun. This position, which is the highest judicial position, is usually reserved for the Maronites. The disagreement had been over who represents the Christians and would thus take the position: the president who came from a political settlement, or the head of the largest Christian bloc? The dispute remained unresolved for about two years, leaving the post vacant until a settlement was made, and Judge Jean Fahd assumed the position.

This policy is not limited to senior-level positions. It extends to posts that fall under class four and class five jobs, just like what had happened when the decree to appoint 541 individuals in seven job posts was suspended.

Mahdi Ashour was one of those people. His appointment has been hindered since 2017, and when the people of Lebanon took to the streets in October 2019, he found hope in the movements against the regime.

Mahdi recalls the memories of the uprising in downtown Beirut. At the time, he carried his demands on a handwritten sign and joined the masses in the streets. He wanted to express his anger and demand his right to the job that he had won — “in full merit,” as he put it — through the Civil Service Council.

Mahdi graduated with a certificate of (technical) excellence in auditing and accounting, ranking second in Lebanon. The 28-year-old told Raseef22, “I was raised in a humble family, we have no powerful connections. When I got the opportunity, I applied for a position as a treasurer in the Ministry of Communications through the Civil Service Council. They did not set any conditions related to sect affiliations. 2,334 people applied to 30 centers and only 93 succeeded. It was hard, and I finished sixth.”

It has been four years, and Mahdi is still awaiting the decree of his appointment, but the lack of sectarian balance is standing in the way, as was the case with the decree appointing air traffic controllers and forest rangers. He says, “During that period, competitions were held to fill 541 vacancies, but then the decrees that would appoint the winners were suspended after President Michel Aoun refused to sign them under the pretext of sectarian imbalance, even though political powers before the 2018 parliamentary elections had employed around five thousand people.” He wonders, “Why do I have to beg for a job, use connections and nepotism, or work outside my area of expertise? From 2017 to this day, I still dream of getting my rights, but those demanding the rights of their sect are oppressing me.”

Speaking on the issue of recruiting employees on the eve of the 2018 parliamentary elections, Professor of Administrative and Constitutional Law at the Lebanese University, Issam Ismail, points out that “the Audit Bureau seized the file that violated Law No. 16 issued in 2017, which prohibits employment in all its forms unless with the approval of the Council of Ministers following an investigation carried out by the Civil Service Council that proves the institution’s need for employees.” He states, “These employments were electoral bribes, and this led to increased spending and flooded the treasury with additional deficit.”

Commenting on the failure to issue decrees appointing employees in the Civil Service Council as promised under the pretext of sectarian imbalance, Ismail tells Raseef22, “It would have been better if the results of the competitions had not been announced if they found an imbalance. It’s within the authority of the Civil Service Council to cancel the results of the competitions before they’re announced. In this way, they placed the people who were deprived of their jobs against the groups who had deprived the people of them and thus became their enemy.”

Elie’s story is similar to that of Mahdi’s. The young man requested that he remain anonymous so that he would not be subjected to retaliation at work. He recounts his experience that “wasted away four years of my life”, after he wasn’t appointed as a notary public despite placing top in the competition.

“In the decree appointing notaries public, its issuance has been delayed, and there are no issues when it comes to the sectarian balance, but rather a shortage in the number of winners from the Sunni sect that come from ​​Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s area in Beirut,” Elie tells Raseef22.

Following a long wait after the results of the match were announced in 2018, the government of President Hassan Diab issued the awaited decree in 2020, as part of a settlement that issued another decree attached to the initial one appointing an additional number of notaries (from those who lost in the competition) to please the objectors.”

Even though those who were appointed by the attached decree “did not win the first places in the competition, they were assigned to coastal areas close to their areas of residence,” recounts Elie. As for him, he was forced to move from his place of residence with his family in Metn down by the Lebanese coast, to a remote Bekaa area at the Lebanese-Syrian border. He says, “I’ve become like those who live abroad. I only visit my family during my days off and on holidays,” adding, “This is another injustice. What I earn is not enough to pay the rent, the bills for heating, and transportation.” In his view, the top candidates should have been given priority in the appointments that are close to where they live, but political scores and calculations had the final say.

Equal sharing after the Taif Agreement

“Despite the State Council’s position on Article 95, the debate on it has not ended and the question of its interpretation is still being raised,” Shabib explains, adding, “There are those who consider that the transitional phase that Article 95 talked about has not even begun yet.”

Shabib says, “After the war, there was a reluctance for Christians to apply for public jobs, as attempts to abolish sectarianism were applied in jobs. The response came from the Christian parties after their return to power in 2005, in order to lift what they considered as injustice done against them.”

The issue of returning Christians to the public administration is seen by the president and founder of the “Labora” Association, Father Tony Khadra, as his case. Labora is a Christian institution founded by Khadra with the aim of guiding, training and educating Christian youth on the importance of engaging in state institutions, instead of resorting to emigration as a result of unemployment.

Khadra’s focus on the entry of Christians into the public administration “started from their reluctance to apply to public service in the 1990s. After the period that was known as ‘Maronite Politics’ (also known as ‘Political Maronism’) before the Lebanese war, when the balance in the public administration was tilted in favor of the Christians, there came a time where the Christians fell back in the administration after the war, whether to the benefit of the political Sunnis with the late Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in the 1990s, or for the political Shiites with Hezbollah’s control after 2005.

The return of Christians to power after the withdrawal of the Syrian army from Lebanon in 2005 “positively affected their involvement in civil service”. Khadra gives examples of this, “The progress of Christians in civil service increased from 12% in 2005 to more than 19% in 2019, while the success rates in sectors such as the judiciary, foreign affairs, and notaries also changed from 18% to about 55%.”

However, returning the political balance between Christians and Muslims within public administrations is not necessarily completely positive for the involvement of Christians in the state, according to Khadra. He tells Raseef22, “Christian parties support their followers according to political, sectarian and regional quotas. An example of how quotas were distributed between political parties within one denomination is the Maarab Agreement of 2016, which brought General Michel Aoun to the presidency. The two parties, the Free Patriotic Movement and the Lebanese Forces, signed a highly secretive document to share the Christian quota within the administration between them.” This was before they had a dispute and exchanged accusations of not respecting the agreement, particularly when it came to the sharing of public office posts.

Militias from the streets to institutions

The issue of Christians withdrawing and then restarting efforts to restore their share within the administration — despite the demographic change and the decline in their population to about 35% compared to 65% for Muslims, according to estimates — is not the only problem that the administration faces, according to  Professor of Political Sciences Jennifer Layoun.

She says, “After the end of the Lebanese war, and with the issuance of the general amnesty law in 1991, and instead of restructuring the administration, militia members were admitted to public service jobs without any rehabilitation or training. It was as if the job was an alternate prize or award to the harassment and hazing checkpoints they used to set up, because it provides job stability for the employee-customer, in addition to the social and living guarantees and benefits.”

“Members of the militia were able to enter all the departments and forces on every rank and level, including Grade One posts.” The former governor of Beirut recounts, “There is an entire generation of general managers who had been military officials in the Progressive Socialist Party and the Amal Movement. A training course was organized to assimilate the militias into the military forces and they became officers in the army and members of the security forces. There are also the daily-paid workers in public institutions and those who deal with the Ministry of Information. In every place that had no competition by the Civil Service Council, members of the militia were taken in.”

Professor of Administrative Law Issam Ismail comments on this issue by saying, “These members were assimilated against the law without any regard to competence, morals or experience. Nothing but militia identity, which set the administration a thousand years back and contributed to the ruin of public services.”

The civil service council... has no say

According to the figures of the Civil Service Council, about 14% of workers in the public administration —about 2% of the total workforce — work illegally, that is, through political appointments that come from outside the council.

The Civil Service Council was established during the era of President Fouad Chehab in 1955, and it is concerned with employee affairs. Its powers include appointing employees, taking care of promotion and advancement, and conducting competitions and exams that select qualified employees on the basis of “merit and competency”.

According to Layoun, “The aim of the establishment of this council by the state is to institutionalize the management of public service, but it soon circumvented its powers by giving priority to sectarian balance and political quotas over the criteria of competency, while also contracting from outside the administration, that is, with people who have not taken part in any of the competitions.”

Layoun added, “There are sectarian and political goals behind filling the public administration with contractors of various types of contracts. These people do not fall within the sectarian quota of each administration. Most of them come from the sect and area of ​​influence of the leader or the party controlling the administration. This is an evasion of sorts from the political-sectarian consensus.”

She also talks about the contractors’ absolute loyalty to the sect leader, “because they have no job security except through him. They are deprived of the most basic employment rights such as social security, end-of-service compensation, insurance covering work accidents, and transportation allowance... Every once in a while they receive promises for job stability, but these promises are never realized, and their only remaining guarantee is ensuring that their political leader remains content and satisfied with them.”

Layoun further explains, “These are the most powerful employment weapons in the hands of the county’s political parties and authorities. Evidence of this is how Nabih Berri was able to disable the Ministry of Energy and Water for months during the term of Minister Gebran Bassil, by having the daily-workers in the ministry go on strike. On the surface, this step came under the demand to incorporate the daily-workers into the ministry’s staff, while internally, it falls within a settling of political scores between the Amal Movement and the Christian minister of the Free Patriotic Movement through the use of daily-workers, the majority of whom belong to the Shiite sect.”

“In addition, there are the consultants who enter ministries for very high fees and create an alternate administration on top of the existing administrative structure. They continue to hold their positions by claiming to work on important files despite the end of term of the minister who had appointed them,” says Layoun, noting that “this policy was adopted by Christian ministers, because, since their return to power, they could not create the balance they wanted within their administrations, whether through employment or through administrative promotions. They attack the basic principle of an employee’s professionalism and independence.”

Shabib says, “From the Mount Lebanon civil conflicts of 1845 and 1860, as well as the system of the two district offices and the Mutasarrifate, to the 1926 constitution and the unrest of 1936, through the 1943 national charter, the events of 1958 and the international intervention to stop them, the Lebanese war in 1975 and the Taif Agreement in 1989, all the way to the fragile stability we live in today… Sectarian leaders worked on making the sectarian norms in the country become even more deeply rooted, and their objection was only to the percentages and ratios. It is not in their interest to build a direct relationship between the citizen and the state.”

Layoun believes that “the biggest loser in this clientelist system is the competent employee who belongs to a small sect or is from an ‘electorally’ unbalanced region, or who does not have any close ties to a sect leader or an influential political party, and the biggest loser in this equation is the Lebanese administration which have no priorities for competency.” She concludes, “Here, the rights of the sects are more important than the rights of the citizens themselves. Therefore, there is no solution to the crisis of the administrative system in Lebanon, except by changing the political system.”


* The Quota system refers to a system of confessionalism whereby the forces in power divvy up positions based on sectarian affiliations, as part of an elaborate network of patronage, clientelism, and nepotism

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