Lebanon, in the early 1970s a middle-income country with a vibrant private sector-led economy, has been devastated by 15 years of war and military occupation. The war has left the economy in ruins, with real per capita income reduced by nearly two-thirds due largely to the widespread destruction of infrastructure and productive assets, estimated by the United Nations at approximately $25 billion. All sectors of the economy have been affected by the war, both directly and from the near total disruption in capital investment and maintenance. The impact on human re sources and the public administration has been equally large. Apart from the tragic loss of life and the disabling of hundreds of thousands of people, about 200,000 professional and skilled workers are estimated to have emigrated, resulting in severe skill shortages throughout the economy.
2. THE STATE OF THE PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION - POST WAR
The war devastated the administrative infrastructure as much as the physical infrastructure, both because of the physical and human damage and lack of maintenance, and be cause the conflict froze the normal process of administrative adaptation and isolated the system from the rest of the world for almost two decades. This isolation happened precisely when technological and communications advances and practical experience were leading many countries to eliminate redundant controls and formalities, shed certain government functions, give more space to individual initiative and streamline administrative decision-making. Consequently, in addition to the dilapidated state of the public administration, administrative and civil service procedures in Lebanon no longer fit the requirements of a modern state. The situation of the public administration showed the following characteristics:
(a) office space not available in most cases as many war-damaged buildings require considerable repair and rehabilitation; (b) office equipment is minimal and obsolete; (c) most ministries and public agencies are operating with skeleton staff despite the Government's recruitment effort after the end of the war; (d) the distorted and inadequate compensation system does not attract qualified local professionals, let alone the Lebanese living abroad; (e) the civil service is aging (with an average age of 54) and insufficiently trained, reflecting the impossibility over the prolonged was years to practice their skills and to keep abreast of chancing international practices in their fields of activity; (f) while there is a shortage of qualified staff, there is an excessive number of unqualified daily workers; and (g) the basic procedures of public administration, established 35 years ago or longer, are over-centralized and outmoded.
Weakened by the absence of a functioning civil service and "basic administrative needs", the Government is handicapped in carrying out normal governance functions effectively, not to mention the challenge of keeping up with and supporting the economic recovery. There is a strong consensus in the private as well as the public sector that the current weakness and inefficiency of the public administration is a major and growing hindrance to private economic activity, the country's economic recovery, the environment, and citizens' well being. Examples are many and affect virtually the entire interface between the government and citizens' daily life. Thus, the backlog makes it next to impossible to register a new car; enforcement of traffic rules is non-existent, and safety is badly comprised; zoning regulations exist but are not implemented, lea ding to increasingly severe sol id waste pollution in the cities and beachfronts; public procurement procedures cannot be enforced from lack of personnel-leading to widespread fraud and corruption; the public transportation system has broken down (the Ministry of Transport has 1,000 drivers, but only 29 functioning buses); when there is an attempt at enforcing standard regulations, the scarcity of personnel and material resources causes them to be a major hindrance to private sector activity-as in the case of business licenses; and so on.
3. SOLUTION: ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
3.1 WHAT IS ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
Administrative Reform recognizes that time doesn't stop. Wherever they may be in the world, nations must keep up with progress or be left behind. An array of advanced and efficient technologies and systems is being constantly produced at an astounding speed. It is keeping up with these advances and facilitating their integration within virtually every modern and developing country that has led governing states to take an active role in continually adjusting their administrative processes. This is not the job of any specific group, however, it is the responsibility of the whole nation, officials and citizens alike.
3.2 TOWARDS A SERVICE-DRIVEN GOVERNMENT
Administrative Reform is an important element in ensuring that governments offer the best possible service to their citizens. For example, governments can save time and money by using modern technology such as computer networks and e-mail in preference to the old manual procedures. When a bureaucratic procedure can be completed by one person instead of two, and in 5 minutes instead of in one hour, and Government Administrations select the more efficient of the two ways, they preserve valuable resources – a situation eventually benefiting citizens in the form of lower taxes.
By reviewing, restructuring, and promoting transparency of govern mental organizations, systems, and procedures, Administrative Reform helps to reduce the economic burden on the country and strengthen the commitment of its citizens. Administrative Reform clearly aims to build a more service-driven government.
Administrative Reform is an unending process because change is continual, and ongoing development is needed in order to maintain efficient services to the public. In most developed countries, Administrative Reform is a natural part of progress towards a leaner, economically healthy, and more efficient government.
3.3 GOVERNMENT STRATEGY AND POLICY REFORM AGENDA
The Government recognized that an efficient administration, as well as the development of a sound legal and regulatory environment, were essential for attracting domestic and foreign private in vestment and for successful reconstruction and recovery. The Government's overall objective was a very lean and efficient public administration able to provide basic services to the economic agents and citizens, in line with the Lebanese tradition of a predominant private sector. The Government has made some initial efforts to rehabilitate the administration and enable it to carry out long-term reform. The Council of Ministers entrusted the Minister of State for Administrative Reform with the responsibilities to coordinate these efforts. The Minister of State has formed in May and December 1994, with UNDP support, a small nucleus consisting of an Institutional Development Unit (IDU) to coordinate longer-term reforms and a Technical Cooperation Unit (TCU) to guide and implement the rehabilitation activities. The Council of Ministers also created four inter-ministerial committees to examine the salary scale, compensation, job classification, and organizational structure of specific ministries. With the assistance of the World Bank (through the 1994 Revenue Enhancement and Fiscal Management Technical Assistance Project), the Government was rehabilitating the Ministry of Finance in the areas of tax and customs administration, cadastre and land registration, and public expenditure management. A policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) grant for technical assistance in the a mount of $48 5,000 from the Government of Japan was used to develop a program closely conforming to Lebanon's urgent needs for administrative reform.
The decades of civil war as described in Section 2 have thwarted the development of an efficient administration with modern facilities and skillfully executed functions. This has hampered economic recovery and stability. Consequently, the Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) in Lebanon must play a crucial role by acting as an agent of change. Building the Government's physical and administrative infrastructures will have a profound effect in improving the productivity of the Ministries and Public Agencies - and ultimately benefit citizens.
3.4 REFORM GOALS
The ultimate goals are:
v Ensuring efficient delivery of public services to all citizens
v Accelerating the recovery process
v Eliminating redundancies and waste
v Combating corruption
v Integrating the latest technologies and methods of work
v The creation of opportunities for local and international investors
v The facilitation of local business activities
v The improvement of Lebanon's standard of living
3.5 THE FACE OF CHANGE
There is little doubt that changes are occurring, how ever the tangible outcomes are not always apparent because much of the work is long-term planning and development. The short-term changes, on the other hand, though tangible, may not seem quantitatively significant at this time.
3.6 PROBLEMS FACED DURING ADMINISTRATIVE REFORM
It is important to recognize the critical nature of the responsibility of deciding which way to move forward. The unsteady nature of our deeply indebted national economy makes it extremely important that the public money is well managed and properly administered to minimize the risks. The importance of achieving positive outcomes and tangible results from OMSAR's work is particularly critical because the Office is working against the tide – facing negative attitudes, impossible demands, misunderstanding or even a complete lack of awareness of the responsibilities of reform. These unrealistic expectations and lack of awareness exist both on the public and government levels.
The very concept of "reform" is neither cherished nor supported in the way it should be. The underlying cause is the feeling that efforts in this domain are useless. Ignorance of OMSAR's achievements to date is an obstacle in many sectors because it outweighs the positive support we receive from many that appreciate the need for the existence of an organization such as OMSAR.
OMSAR also faces constraints from the interrelationships among the other entities with which we have to interface. Becoming more and more autonomous is positive encouragement from the government but it also carries with it a greater burden of responsibility and accountability. The objective of OMSAR is to evolve a more and more dynamic structure that will result in greater productivity.
Past work has related to the assessment of needs, now we are redesigning ourselves for greater efficiency, effectiveness, and a more aggressive approach to the delivery of results within fixed frames. Enthusiasm, teamwork and plain hard work will enable us to accomplish our mission. The most important aim of OMSAR is the conviction and adoption of the idea of reform. The validation of this idea and the building of believers behind it are probably the most critical step in breaking the inertia and resistance to reform. Openness, honesty and deep analyses are called for.
Notwithstanding all these constraints, OMSAR's strategy for achieving our aim is to create in our Office a small and efficient administration inspired by the philosophy of client-service delivery with an output orientation. We are the prototype of a model organization: the blueprint upon which all subsequent restructuring should be based. In order to achieve that goal, we have set out to hire the best of Lebanese human resources, both from within the country and from around the world. These young, bright, and talented people will help to change the traditional image of the public servant with their dynamic approach, specialized knowledge and ease of understanding of even the most sophisticated processes and technology. At the same time, the veteran civil servants will be empowered to share their experience, depth of vision, and mature judgment in a synergy entirely new to Lebanon's Public Sector.
What is The Number 1700?
The Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) has put the number 1700 at the service of citizens in order to give them the information they need to complete administrative procedures. This information is available on this website www.dawlati.gov.lb
Citizens may dial 1700 from any fixed or mobile phone without any extra charge (cost of a normal call), Mondays to Fridays between 8:00 and 14:00 and Saturdays between 8:00 and 12:00.