“I ask everyone to stop their political and economic prostitution and debauchery, and to instead trust the government and its workers”
Thus spoke our fearless Minister of health from his high horse, feigning surprise and playing at righteousness in the face of a business community that was blindsided by his brazen overreach.
Minister Abu Faour is shocked, (shocked! I tell you) that people may doubt the findings of underpaid government workers working behind closed doors and unaccountably producing extra judicial sentences on restaurants and retailers that have long had good standing with their customers and communities.
Whatever Mr. Abu Faour is doing, it is good politics. It makes for an entertaining spectacle (in the same way that public executions do); it gives the masses the illusion that the government is working on their behalf, and it portrays the up-and-coming young minister as a no nonsense kinda guy who doesn’t care what corporations say; a man who rolls his sleeves and get things done regardless of of the objections of the connected and powerful. Well played PSP, your transition plan is on track..
But there is one big hole in this enterprise: The minister stakes this entire crusade on a very shaky foundation: Trust in government.
Trust Vs Checks and Balances
The problem is that government is not supposed to work on trust. We don’t need to keep learning that from history. Successful and efficient governments work on legal foundations of transparency and checks and balances. The notion that we should trust what government is doing behind closed doors is the vestige of old command economies and tyrannical regimes.
It shouldn’t be treasonous to doubt the incentives of underpaid government workers who are suddenly given tremendous powers to destroy businesses. What if Crepaway bribed the inspector to destroy its competitor Roadster Diner? What if Refaat el Hallab made him an offer he can’t refuse to smear its arch-enemy Abdul Rahman? What guarantees do these businesses have other than “oh, Lebanese government workers are angels, they would never do such a thing”.
As a Lebanese citizen, I want food safety, and I want checks on businesses’ overreach (again, checks and balances). But Mr. Abu Faour’s campaign could have been much more effective by being more transparent and by at least having multiple independent labs check the samples.
Instead, he decided to have a political circus.