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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 October 2010


The purpose of this article is twofold. First, we aim to evaluate the records of executive branches of the Lebanese government that are involved in public social spending in terms of their ability to respond to need. Second, we attempt to uncover the criteria underlying the distribution of public social spending. The allocation of funds across sectors and administrative districts is evaluated according to a vector of the socioeconomic characteristics of each locality thought to be of relevance. We find that the association between need and spending is, at best, very loose. When we use the geographical distribution of spending and voting data from each locality to estimate each religious sect's share of public spending, we find a striking conformity between the sectarian composition of the population and each sect's estimated share of national public spending. The logic of the disbursement of public funds and the mechanism underlying the observed one-man one-dollar distribution rule—a rule with primacy over health, education, and infrastructure needs as well as imbalances across regions—is that distribution be balanced across sects.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2010

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9 UNDP and CAS, Living Conditions of Households (Beirut: UNDP, 1997); idem, Living Conditions of Households (Beirut: UNDP, 2004).

10 The Taʾif Accords preserved the division of the three main presidencies between the Maronite, Sunni, and Shiʿi communities but adjusted the division of the parliament along sectarian lines from a ratio of six Christians to five Muslims to a ratio of one to one. Similarly, the informal division of the cabinet along sectarian lines and distribution of administrative posts by sects remained after the Taʾif Accords.

11 Mona Harb El-Kak, “Towards a Regionally Balanced Development,” UNDP Conference on Linking Economic Growth and Social Development, Beirut, Lebanon, 11–13 January 2000.

12 M. Fawaz, “L'amenagement du territoire et l'environnement au Liban depuis l'Independance,” Lettre d'information de l'ORBR, no. 11, Beyrouth, Cermoc, 1999, 5–8.

13 World Bank, Lebanon Public Expenditure Reform Priorities for Fiscal Adjustment, Growth and Poverty Alleviation. Report No. 32857–LB (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005).

14 One of the rare overviews of corruption cases in postwar reconstruction in Lebanon is Adwan, Charles, “Corruption in Reconstruction: The Cost of National Consensus in Post-War Lebanon,” in Corruption in Postwar Reconstruction: Confronting the Vicious Circle, ed. Large, Daniel (Beirut: Lebanese Transparency Association, 2005)Google Scholar.

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17 Santiago Herrera and Gaobo Pang, “Efficiency in Public Spending in Developing Countries: An Efficiency Frontier Approach,” World Bank Policy Research Working Paper no. 3645 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 2005). These countries are Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Mauritius, Kuwait, and Chile.

18 As measured by net primary- and secondary-school enrollment.

19 As measured by life and life-disability-adjusted expectancy at birth and immunization rates (DPT and measles).

20 Private spending on health over GDP averages 2.3 percent for the 187 countries sampled compared to 10.2 percent in Lebanon. There is no similar figure for private education. Public-education spending averages 4.5 percent of GDP for 166 countries sampled.

21 Chaaban, Jad and Gebara, Khalil, “Development in a Polarized Society: Looking at Economic and Social Development in Lebanon through a Different Lens,” Abaad 11 (2007), Lebanese Center for Policy StudiesGoogle Scholar.

22 Despite this improvement, severe poverty pockets still exist in Beirut suburbs and Palestinian camps.

23 UNDP, Poverty, Growth and Income Distribution in Lebanon (Beirut: UNDP, 2007), 8.

24 These data were compiled in Sandra Chaoul's “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures: New Evidence from Lebanon” (master's thesis, American University of Beirut, 2007). UNDP and MOSA data are from the report of the household surveys, CAS data are from annual reports and the CAS website, CDR data are published in Lebanese Contractor magazine, and World Bank data are taken from the World Bank report on public spending in Lebanon.

25 UNDP and CAS, Living Conditions of Households (1997 and 2004).

26 Chaoul, “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures,” 39.

27 UNDP and CAS, Living Conditions of Households (2004).

28 Chaoul, “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures,” 43.

29 This analysis does not account for the size or the quality of the schools in question. Still, unless there is reason to believe that some districts have systematically smaller schools than others, the disparity in the numbers of schools across districts shown in Table 5 begs further explanation. Table 6 deals with the size issue.

30 Chaoul, “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures,” 45.

31 The annual budget of MOSA is U.S. $60 million, of which 80 percent is spent on the care of 30,000 children, most of it through NGOs that contract with the government. These reached 156 institutions in 2005.

32 World Bank, Lebanon Public Expenditure, 49.

33 UNDP and CAS, Living Conditions of Households (1997).

34 Nisreen Salti, Jad Chaaban, and Nadia Naamani, “The Economics of Tobacco in Lebanon: An Estimation of the Social Costs of Tobacco Consumption,” Issam Fares Institute and the Tobacco Research Group, American University of Beirut, (accessed 28 June 2010); article under review at Tobacco Control. See also Hamze, Mouin and Khoudoud, Abir Abou El, Agriculture, Fishery, Food, and Sustainable Rural Development in the Mediterranean Region: Annual Report 2005, Lebanon (Beirut: Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques, 2005)Google Scholar.

35 World Bank, Lebanon Public Expenditure, 35.

36 Chaoul, “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures,” 47.

37 World Bank, Doing Business 2010 Lebanon (Washington, D.C.: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 2009), 56.

38 Chaaban and Gebara, “Development in a Polarized Society,” 15–19.

39 Ghassan Dibeh, “The Political Economy of Postwar Reconstruction in Lebanon” (2005) UNU-WIDER Research Papers, (accessed 18 June 2010).

41 These include spending on roads, bridges, hospitals, and schools as reported in the CDR's project database.

42 This argument is not really sensitive to the fact that the confessional distribution is based on registered rather than residing voters, because political power in Lebanon is transmitted through elections based on registered voters of a given confession in their birthplace and not their current area of residence.

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45 Dibeh, “The Political Economy of Postwar Reconstruction in Lebanon.”

46 Ibid., 50.

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48 Ndikumana, Léonce, “Fiscal Policy, Conflict and Reconstruction in Burundi and Rwanda,” in Fiscal Policy for Development: Poverty, Reconstruction and Growth, ed. Addison, T. and Roe, A. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan for UNU-WIDER, 2004), 274302Google Scholar.

49 See Berhman, J. R. and Craig, S. G., “The Distribution of Public Services: An Exploration of Local Government Preferences, American Economic Review 77 (1987): 315–32Google Scholar.

50 Sandra Chaoul, “Corruption in the Provision of Public Expenditures: New Evidence from Lebanon” (master's thesis, American University of Beirut, 2007).