Administrative reform proposals come a dime a dozen in Lebanon. Yet, Lebanon’s public administration is today characterised by widespread state capture, graft and cronyism.
While some of the reform proposals over the past three decades have been of high quality, they have generally failed to make sustainable improvements to the flexibility and efficiency of the public administration.
Public sector reform blind spots
The same blind spots are behind this. These include, first, the belief that the imported notions of ideal transnational public management could be applied in a hostile political context that renders them impracticable. Large swathes of staff in the public administration additionally remain permeable to the influences of this context, and resistant to any change imposed from above.
Second, all previous administrative reform proposals have steered clear of political issues (confining them to the vague issue of ‘political will’ or lack thereof), to the point that one has the impression that the problems facing the Lebanese public administration are strictly technical.
Third, the overly organisational approach adopted by these administrative reform proposals has overshadowed the legal dimension, reducing the law to a cumbersome tool necessary for the implementation of primarily organisational reform proposals.
A tailored administrative reform roadmap
The above is the analysis of Saint Joseph University’s Faculty of Law and Political Sciences, as set out in its May 2023 study entitled, ‘Reforming the Lebanese Public Administration: Context, Principles and Priorities,’ which was written with Siren’s support and with funding from the British Embassy in Beirut.
Having drawn lessons from the failures of previous attempts, the study highlights the main shortcomings in the organisation and functioning of Lebanon’s public administration. It also proposes possible solutions to these shortcomings, focusing on enhancing human resource management, internal and external control, and streamlining administrative structures.
The report is essential reading for anyone seeking practical reform ideas that are adapted to the legal, administrative and political realities of Lebanon, while taking into account likely internal resistance. Taken in its entirety, the report offers a tailored roadmap for those interested in sustainably transforming Lebanon’s public administration into one that is productive, effective, transparent and trusted.