The Bureaucracy

Lebanon Table of Contents

In 1987 there were skeletal remains of the prewar bureaucracy. For example, although there were still many interruptions, telephone and postal service continued to function in many areas, and electric power and piped water still flowed to many users. But with the central authorities in a shambles, the bureaucracy was often more heavily influenced by the local militias than by the cabinet ministries.

Before the 1975 Civil War the bureaucracy, bloated by patronage, was noted for its slowness, inefficiency, and corruption. Favored clients of zuama often held important positions and, regardless of their competence, could not be fired. Given the low pay of many positions, it was not surprising that government employment did not attract the most capable people. Moreover, to make ends meet, many civil servants were prone to accepting bribes and spending only a few hours at the office so they could work at a second job.

Sectarianism has perhaps been stronger in the bureaucracy than in any other Lebanese political institution. President Shihab, one of the few national-level politicians to introduce reforms to the system, in 1959 enacted the Personnel Law. This statute technically abolished the practice of appointing officers on the basis of the six-to-five formula; instead, Christians and Muslims were to be appointed on an equal basis. Shihab also created the Civil Service Council to examine, train, and certify new appointees, and he established a school to provide such training.

But as with other reform measures that threatened the hold of the zuama, these efforts were largely ignored. An estimate of sectarian representation in 1955 among higher ranking civil servants put Maronites at 40 percent, while 27 percent were Sunnis, and a mere 3.6 percent were Shias. Furthermore, by the start of the Civil War in 1975, these ratios remained relatively unchanged.

In the aftermath of the violence of the late 1970s and early 1980s, observers were uncertain of the exact functioning of local administration. As noted earlier, it was believed that, like much of Lebanese politics, local affairs had become the domain of the militias. In 1987 the country was divided into five provinces (muhafazat): Bayrut, Al Biqa, Jabal Lubnan, Al Janub and Ash Shamal. A sixth province, Jabal Amil, was created in the 1980s. It was to be carved out of Al Janub Province, with its capital at An Nabatiyah at Tahta. In 1987, however, its exact boundaries could not be determined. All provinces except Bayrut were subdivided into districts. Prior to 1975, local administration was highly centralized, with the Ministry of Interior having oversight and fiscal responsibilities. The governor, who was appointed by the president with cabinet approval, was the highestranking official in each province. He headed the Provincial Council, which included a representative of the Ministry of Finance, and the deputy governors (qaim maqams), who were appointed in the same manner as the governor. Despite the elaborate infrastructure of the local administration, by virtue of its control over the purse strings, the Ministry of Interior exercised considerable authority.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress