The Dayton Agreement and the Taif Agreement were concluded at about the same time: The first put an end to the bloody fighting in Yugoslavia, and the second provided the basis for ending the hateful fighting among the Lebanese.
The Dayton Agreement established a special tribunal to prosecute those responsible for murders and expressly prohibited them from holding any public office. In Lebanon, the opposite happened.
Under the pretext of turning the page, a general amnesty was issued, coupled with a denial of the occurrence of the very crime that was the cause for punishment: to enable militia leaders to assume power and public positions.
As a result, those leaders came together to collectively manage the government by quotas and adopted an approach of consensual decision-making. The final word remains practically in the hands of those who retained their weapons under the pretext of resistance, that is, Hezbollah.
This established an abhorrent alliance between armed fundamentalism and political and financial clientelism/opportunism, based on promises of mutual benefit.
From herein, Lebanon ceased to be a state and became an ungovernable “beast”, according to Le Monde newspaper. The alliance led to the establishment of a mafia system similar to Sicily’s infamous mafia, but with the highest degrees of perfection.
The Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center says the system “allowed most of the sectarian militia leaders to shape the peacetime republic around their political and financial interests and patronage networks.”
As a result, “Lebanon was entirely dominated by a sectarian political leadership that had sustained itself financially during the war years through criminal economic behaviour.”
Lebanon inched ever closer to the perfect criminal republic, says the think tank, since “the ones committing the crimes are those actually in senior positions of authority. They have infiltrated all state bodies.”
Political and economic impediments
The nature of the country’s new leadership resulted in various impediments — the most dangerous of which on the political level was the obstruction of the conduct of state affairs, from electing presidents and forming governments, to approving laws and taking governmental and even ministerial decisions.
On the financial front, the results were worrying from the outset and clearly foreshadowed the looming disaster.
In terms of GDP, public finances recorded a persistent deficit of 10%, while the current account of the balance of payments recorded a sizeable deficit averaging 20% and funded mainly by external debt and non-resident deposit inflows.
The general government debt-to-GDP ratio also rose from 50% after Taif to more than 150% — the third highest in the world.