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 resources 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.
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 because 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. Although serious efforts have been exerted to reduce the impact of the war on the public administration, the latter still shows the following dysfunction symptoms: (a)Most ministries and public agencies have outdated organizational structures that do not meet the development requirements; (b)Obsolete work-procedures that are governed by laws, regulations or customs that date back to the 1950s; (c)Shortage of staff in various positions and excessive employment in other work-areas creating a disequilibrium in staff distribution; (d)Shortage of modern management and technology skills; (e)An aging civil service that raises serious concerns about the future operation of the administration amid an almost total absence of career development efforts and successive planning; (f)ICT infrastructure and systems fall behind compared to other countries in the region while the existing ones are underutilized.
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, leading to increasingly severe solid 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; 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.
Solution: Administrative Perform
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.
Towards a Service-Driven Government
The ultimate objective of administrative reform is delivering better services to the citizens. Various tools are used in this respect, including modern technology, better regulations, streamlined procedures, and administrative de-concentration and decentralization to reach out to the various segments of the population and to speed up the day-to-day dealings with the Government apparatus. Such tools would help span the gap between the citizens and the Government and entrench the concept of Good Governance. Administrative reform is a continuous process that poses serious challenges, invites creative solutions and engages different stakeholders. It is a mission that tackles the organizational, procedural and human aspects of the public service.
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 investments 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. A policy and Human Resources Development (PHRD) grant for technical assistance in the amount 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 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 had to 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. The first rehabilitation program that targeted the civil service after the war was the national Administrative Rehabilitation Program (NARP) that identified the needs of the public sector entities for physical reconstruction, technical assistance and human resources. Loans and grants poured into OMSAR to meet the set recovery and development targets.
The ultimate goals are:
- Ensuring efficient delivery of public services to all citizens;
- Utilizing and growing the human capital of the nation;
- Enhancing ethics, integrity and sense of belonging;
- Keeping abreast of the latest technological developments and managerial good practices.
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. Many changes are significant, but difficult to measure in quantitative terms.
Problems Faced During Administrative Reform
Since the very beginning of the post-war administrative reform process, OMSAR was fully aware that its efforts and initiatives are likely to face resistance, or to a lesser extent, indifference. Such restraining forces are considered to be natural reactions that any change management undertaking is expected to tackle. As time passes by and as experience accumulates, the change agent will learn to devise alternative strategies to break the status quo, or even to survive some extremely difficult conditions that go beyond control. Mobilizing the support of a wide spectrum of stakeholders in this battle against inertia brought some promising results, though the reform agenda is much more ambitious. 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