Today, while on my way to the Outlook weekly meeting, I got detoured by my tweep Aline into West Hall Bathish. A UNICEF representative was giving a lecture about the Millenium Development Goals (MDGs). the MDGs are 8 “goals” the world in its entirety ought to be working on achieving by 2015. To know more, go to the UN’s official MDG page. Basically, the MDGs seek to end poverty and hunger, educate the world, empower women, improve maternal health and other issues which concern humanity as a whole.
The lecturer provided very insightful information which got me thinking a lot. For a Lebanese person, living here for more than a decade and involved in society, a foreigner who has been here for “13 months, 3 days, an hour and few minutes” as he said, helped me understand our problem(s) like never before.
First, Lebanon is a country of 13 million with only 3.9 million actually living in the country. The other 9 million though, contribute 25% of our total national GDP. We all boast that we are super-awesome abroad but for some unexplainable reason, suck horribly in Lebanon. This proves this is somewhat true, and that there is a sort of up-side to Lebanese migration abroad. The UN executive then concluded that Lebanon’s wisest investment would be in education and migration of its citizens. Not exactly the grandman-friendly investment, but brutally true…
We often label ourselves, and are labeled, as a “third world country.” But are we really? The numbers say different. Lebanon’s estimated GDP per capita is some 8131.50 USD/year/individual. Romania’s is some 7723.00 USD, and Latvia’s is in the 11000 USD range. What this means? If we were in the European continent, we’d fit right in… As for other indicators of ‘development’ such as deaths per 1000 live births, Lebanon has decreased infant mortality rate over 30% in little over 6 years: a monumental effort towards the better.
The positive information continues, with Lebanon’s GDP being a solid 26.3 billion USD in 2008 and over 75 billion USD in bank reserves, that generated an estimated 8.2 billion USD in bank sector profits over the past 12 years. Estimated growth in 2010 is an impressive 7.0%. Apart from that, we are a prominent services provider in the region, with health, education and tourism sectors attracting international and regional interest (as much as 10K-15K USD/arab tourist)
Here’s where thing get as he put it ‘peculiar’.
Lebanon’s debt is between 151-160% of the GDP. 80% of that debt is held by private banks. What this means is that the private sector in Lebanon is financing the public sector… A peculiar case indeed. The private sector also generates 45% of the electricity in Lebanon. Here’s the most peculiar part though: contrary to established laws, some 5.2 million tons of fuel are imported by the private sector.
25% of the national budget is dedicate to the social services sector. But only 0.05-0.10 of every dollar is actually spent by the public sector itself. Out of 109.2 billion LBP, 102.5 billion LBP is given out to NGOs. In other words, the private sector provides social security and services, funded by the public sector, which in turn is originally funded by the private sector. Cool cycle, huh?
As for health service, 80-90% of healthcare services in Lebanon are provided by the private sector. 70% of the funds allocated to the healthcare sector end up in only 110 hospitals across Lebanon, and usually not the hospitals in the poorer areas. So, even the healthcare system is a privately run, public sector.
I’m not going to get into the education sector cause I didn’t take down the numbers, but here’s what I got:
70% of students go to private schools, something that is not the norm around the world, where public schools usually have the bigger share (much bigger share in fact). But with the absence of an education-quality-control body or system, there is no way to guarantee the education we are getting is up to the standards.
So, in those few minutes, the UN rep, whose name I forgot, made so many things clear… The conclusion to me (which he didn’t say of course)? It’s that with all the NGOs and private businesses running all the public sector, there is plenty of room for corruption, money laundering and wasteful spending… Our dilemma in a nutshell.
IMPORTANT NOTE: I’m not a socialist, nor a communist. I believe in the free-market system and am generally in agreement with rightist economic and social policies. But in a country lacking transparency, the free market might not be so free..
The word that would best describe the current turmoil would be: Uncertain.
So far, here’s what’s happening regarding the planned tuition increase
The Moral of the 1200 words in this post:
Come protest with us all on Wednesday at 12. Miss your classes, cancel your other appointments, and make some time for an issue that has the potential to change AUB’s name and status to become the new luxury-university, a shameful blow to a basic human right of education, with no real excuse for a TWENTY FIVE PERCENT increase in tuition fees…
One thing we always rubbed in the faces of LAU people is that even though our per credit price was higher, they were paying more per semester because any credit above 12 credits is free in AUB (up to 17 credits)
News has emerged though that AUB’s planning to implement a per-credit tuition system, where students will have to pay for all the credits they take. The catch is though, the per credit prices are going to stay the same…
It is for this reason that I invite all AUBites to join the USFC in front of College Hall to protest this unfair spike in tuition fees on Wednesday May 19th, 2010, at 12:00 PM
Please visit the Facebook Event for more information
Every now and then, when the material is good enough =P we’ll be having a guest blogger. This first entry is from my dearest Lori Kharpoutlian.
A while ago, I read the story of a young Afghani teen who flees his homeland ravaged by war seeking a new and better way of life in the States. Once there, his father, a respected aristocrat, starts working as a gas station assistant, and they both move into a dilapidated apartment in the heart of Fremont, California. Despite the conditions they now live in, both father and son are satisfied with their Sunday afternoons at the flea market and the former’s long working hours, considering the States as a place to be free and start over. Let me ask you this: Which sane person would give up his luxury mansion and high social class to work as a gas station assistant? Maybe this father-son’s case was different, but what baffles me is how everyone nowadays seems to aim for a life in the “land of opportunities”.
“My services don’t cover that”, “I can’t risk hurting my back”, and “I take $20 an hour” are some answers you would get when hiring a housekeeper. Doesn’t this sound absurd when all you have to do here is pay Wadi3a 5000LBP to turn the house spotless in a couple of hours? Another thing is the late-night snacks and DVD’s us Lebanese enjoy so much. Here, you would call up a friend, invite him over, fetch a DVD from the closest shop renting out bootleg DVD’s for less than $2, and get some beers and chips from Abou Sako, the man who’s wiling to pile up your tab for a year without asking you to pay him back. How long would that process take? 10-20 minutes? That’s the time you’d need to reach the nearest 7-Eleven where you’d have to show some ID and be faced with the fact that you’re still not 21 and end up getting root beer instead. Let’s not forget the numerous speeding tickets you’d get when you realize your friend’s on his way and you take the wrong exit on the freeway. Plus, I think everyone knows that the chances of getting an illegal DVD in the US are close to…let’s say NILL.
Another misconception Lebanese people have is that education in the States is the best you’ll ever get. I, personally, had set my mind on getting into Brown or Harvard. Ivy League universities seemed to be the crème de la crème, and I thought having them on my résumé in the future would serve as one of those FASTPASS tickets you get at Disneyland. Then, I was told that (and when I say this, I am stating facts) AUB is acknowledged as better than 98% of American institutions for higher education.
I’m not going to bore you with anymore pro-Lebanon arguments, and I ask you not to view me as one of those “Lebanon’s youth should stay in their homeland and support its economy” people. But the thing is, I am American too and I know what lifestyle my relative have there; trust me, the grass is not always greener on the other side.
Think about that the next time you whine about getting disconnected everyday at 6 PM and curse the EDL.
I blog about my unusual life and happenings. I'm Lebanese with a nomadic lifestyle. I hope to eventually settle down somewhere and become a neuromarketer