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November 20, 2019
The Government Monitor No. 8 - The Government Fails to Understand the Gravity of the Problem


What’s the Issue at Hand?
In light of the ongoing protests, former Prime Minister Saad Hariri announced on 21 October a set of 25 reform policy measures to address the deteriorating economic situation. The paper focused primarily on tackling corruption, reducing the budget without imposing new taxes on people, public-private partnerships, and some social welfare programs. However, it failed to appease protesters, ultimately leading to Hariri’s resignation on 29 October.

First, the reforms failed to address a range of protesters’ demands related to socio-economic issues and public services. While the government’s plan did address healthcare and social welfare programs, it fell short on a range of other concerns. An LCPS survey that collected 590 demands from 213 protesters in Riad al-Solh and Martyrs’ Square between 23 and 26 October, gives us a sense of the circulating demands: People want jobs, fair taxes, better public education, and good infrastructural services relating to the environment, electricity, transportation, and water.
 
In fact, the youth—who have played a central role in the movement and its sustainability—are even more focused on socio-economic issues. Having more job opportunities was by far their most recurring demand in that regard.
 
In terms of gender, men and women have largely similar demands but women ask for more public services in healthcare and the environment, among others. Men, on the other hand, more frequently call for better political representation through a new electoral law.
 
Even though 34% of the demands were about public services or socio-economic issues, political demands take precedence, with about 62% being governance related. More specifically, people want: Accountability (32%), primarily through the resignation of officials, the return of stolen public funds, and holding officials accountable; political representation (18%) through the formation of a government, a new electoral law, and early elections; and abolishing the sectarian system (12%). 
 
Although measures in Hariri’s plan meet some of these demands, protesters do not believe in the government’s willingness and ability to implement them. Effectively, the people have lost trust in the political establishment.
 
Why is this Important?
The traditional political leaders have failed to fully realize the gravity of the distrust that citizens hold against them. As the economic crisis grows, so does the glaring disconnect between the political establishment’s priorities and the concerns of the people. This is reflected by protesters’ immediate rejection of the government’s rescue plan, despite it containing some positive reforms.
 
Background
Ongoing nationwide protests have been taking place since 17 October. Civil disobedience took on different forms including demonstrations, marches, sit-ins, roadblocks, and general strikes.
 
After the government’s resignation on 29 October, the country has been in a political deadlock while the economic and financial crisis continues to worsen. After a month since the start of the movement, protesters are still taking to the streets and calling for political and economic changes. Will their seemingly disregarded demands finally be heard?





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