Corruption a way of life in Lebanon

Transparency International, a Berlin-based watchdog, ranks Lebanon as one of the world's most corrupt countries. Among 180 nations surveyed in a 2009 report on corruption, Lebanon ranked 130th – the same as Nigeria and Libya. TI also gave Lebanon a corruption ranking of 2.5, considered “rampant corruption.”  NOW Lebanon gathered several individual accounts of corruption from Lebanese who have experienced it, none of whom wanted their names to be printed.

To submit a corruption story of your own, please write to mailbox@nowlebnaon.com

Actor, 28, Jounieh
I know a guy who owns a gas station that is located on the highway north of Beirut. The station lacked access to the highway… so he paid $25,000 to… to be allowed to construct an entrance from the highway to his station. Two months later, a guy from the municipality came and closed the entrance. The gas station owner had no way of proving that he paid the money because he paid it in cash.

Activist, 37, Beirut
I lost my driver’s license, so I went to the department of motor vehicles to get a new one. They gave me the runaround, and I spent hours going from one department to another, from one municipality to the next, getting papers, filling out forms, waiting for officials. Finally, one guy, who was a police officer, told me that he had someone who could get it done for me the next day for 80,000 LL ($53). Because I didn’t want to spend any more of my time running around and wasting my days, I paid him the money. I felt so guilty about it because it was the first time in my life that I paid a bribe. The next day, he called me and said he can’t get the license. Until now, I don’t have a driver’s license.

Lawyer, 28, Beirut
In Lebanon, there are six to seven commercial registers … Beirut, Baabda, etc., in the centers of governance. Most of the time, you have to pay money for the clerk to proceed with your profile. It’s becoming a custom for lawyers to bribe clerks. We’re talking about amounts from $10 to $100. Sometimes you put the money in the papers, or you just hand it over. When I first did it, I was really annoyed. There was a kind of conflict inside me: Why am I doing this?  But in the end I realized, we are not bribing him to do something bad, just to get things done.

Real Estate Developer, 53, Beirut
There is no way to have a construction permit without bribes, even if you are 100 percent legal.

According to the law, within two months, if the municipality hasn’t responded to your request for a permit, it’s considered you have your permit, then you can start building, but if you do this, you have the municipality on your back all the time and they will thwart you. So what we do is we pay anywhere from $7,000 to $70,000 in bribes just to have the formality approved. Usually you pay one of the guys in the municipality. He pays the others and keeps some for himself. Then you have your permit, you start the construction, but the guy from the municipality will say that you need a new permit for every month. For this, he gets about $100 to $200 every month. Then you finish the construction and you have to pay another bribe to get a housing permit, which is about the same as a construction permit, for the building to be livable. Once you have your housing permit, you have to split your permit into lots, so that each apartment has its own deed. This requires another bribe. I pay around $40,000 in bribes for each project.

Translator, 29, Metn
If you’re building a house in my municipality, there is a law that says you can put up a fence or a wall around your property. There’s a guy who owns a plot to the left and a plot to the right of us. He pushed so much toward our property that our stone wall defining our property crumbled. He refused to pay to have it re-built. We filed a complaint to the municipality, to the union of municipalities, and they didn’t do anything, so we had to rebuild the wall using money from our own pocket. Then this neighbor of ours had the guts to call the ISF, bribe them, and have them come to the house and threaten my grandma that if she didn’t stop annoying the neighbor, she would be sorry for it. And when we used to file complaints, they used to ask us where we vote, and if we don’t vote in the municipality, they would basically say “Bug off, we’re not going to help you.” It’s a mess, it’s a bloody mess.

Communications Consultant, 60, Beirut
The former director of Middle East Airlines in Africa used to let his friends and family fly for free. He was fired from MEA, then certain politicians attacked MEA for the firing and made them re-accept him. I don’t know if he took his old position or not, but this is one kind of corruption.

Another example is that there are a handful of families in Lebanon who control the petrol business. The electricity factories are built to use gas, but even still they use petrol because these five families make money. From 1990 until today, we’ve lost roughly $20 billion because of the electricity.

As Lebanese, we’ve become habituated to corruption. It’s systematic.

  • ever

    Move your electoral file to the place you live in.

    July 15, 2010

  • vreb

    Well, at least we are good at something!

    June 30, 2010

  • comment

    We can fix corruption in Lebanon, we can also make all the lebanese six foot five blond with blue eyes. face it folks it's part of our DNA I live partly in Lebanon partly abroad and even a third generation Lebanese expat will try to get something done outside the law. So would a third generation Italian or a Greek I think it has something to do with the Meds water corruption is endemic to the nations around that basin.

    June 29, 2010

  • Raed Kami

    Lebanon already has a stong leader. You should iisten to him. He is Imam Khamenei

    June 29, 2010

  • Miumiu

    Lebanon 2nd name is Corruption....thats says it all

    June 29, 2010

  • chady

    Im lebanese Canadian, ive lived in lebanon on and off for about 5 years, and i will never go back. the corruption begins with the politicians, all of them, and it trickelled to all civil servents, and finally to the remaining, most, not all, lebanese population. its now in there blood, and unfortunatly it for good. my adbice, the people that can leave, leave, its only going to get worse.

    June 29, 2010

  • andre

    AND the solution is? There was a guy called Bashir and when people knew he would be in power all this BS stopped because they were scared of the consequences of their actions. Lebanon needs a leader with steal kahonas if you know what I mean. God Bless Lebanon

    June 28, 2010