1. One of the things to come out of the worldview of the monotheistic religions was a distinctive outlook on the economic life; these insights originated from reflection on the nature of God Himself. God, who granted man the earth and its resources, upon banishing Adam from the Garden of Eden, explained to him the suffering he had to endure in order to secure his daily bread. This is why the Church’s main concern was to integrate into the heart of her teaching strict moral rules and work ethics aiming at regulating man’s economic and material life bringing it in line with God’s will. Accordingly, man would be providing for his needs through hard, perseverant and creative work. That is why the Church openly prohibited all acts of usury and the exploitation of the weak by the strong, and banned, likewise, all kinds of illegal profit making, meaning, by that, unearned profit, which was not produced by man’s toil and productive work.
2. Here, it is essential to refer to the teachings of Christ on the socioeconomic life. He constantly showed compassion and attention to the poor and marginalized men and women. He was also the one who expelled the merchants from the temple. It is necessary here to recall the teachings of Saint Thomas Aquinas, which were used by the Catholic Church to develop, over the ages, her clear and firm position on economic and social issues. In fact, modern civilization owes to this philosopher/saint the concept of the common good and other essential ideas he developed on the subject. It was due to his teachings that the Church started to lend special importance to socioeconomic issues, seeking to establish the common good in society in order to prevent injustice which would lead to depriving man from enjoying the bounty to be shared by all people. The Church defends personal initiative and private property ownership, placing all economic activities under the principle of the common good, and under a sublime spiritual perspective, which consists of guiding economic development and technological progress towards the service of man and society and not a tool in the hands of few people to exploit others.
Chapter One: Reading the Past
First: Economy at the Heart of Ecclesiastic Concerns
3. For many centuries, churches have played an important economic, social and cultural role. Monasteries were centers for preserving and spreading culture, especially after the fall of the
4. Pope John XXIII reaffirmed the same principles in 1961, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of Rerum Novarum, in his Encyclical Mater et Magistra, in which he stated: “‘Economic domination has taken the place of the open market. Unbridled ambition for domination has succeeded the desire for gain; the whole economic regime has become hard, cruel and relentless in frightful measure.’ As a consequence, even the public authority was becoming the tool of plutocracy, which was thus gaining a stranglehold on the entire world.”
This encyclical can be summed up under two heads. First he taught what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be. It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.
Pope Pius XI enjoins: “The second point which We consider basic in the encyclical is his teaching that man's aim must be to achieve in social justice a national and international juridical order, with its network of public and private institutions, in which all economic activity can be conducted not merely for private gain but also in the interests of the common good.”
This encyclical makes reference to that of Pope Pius XII’s broadcasted on the radio on Pentecost Sunday, in 1941, where the great Pontiff claimed for the Church “the indisputable competence” to “decide whether the bases of a given social system are in accord with the unchangeable order which God our Creator and Redeemer has shown us through the Natural Law and Revelation.” He confirmed the perennial validity and inexhaustible worth of the teaching of Rerum Novarum, and took occasion “to give some further directive moral principles on three fundamental values of social and economic life. These three fundamental values, which are closely connected one with the other, mutually complementary and dependent, are: the use of material goods, work, and the family.”
“Concerning the use of material goods, (Our Predecessor) Pope Pius XII declared that the right of every man to use these for his own sustenance is prior to every other economic right, even that of private property. The right to the private possession of material goods is admittedly a natural one; nevertheless, in the objective order established by God, the right to property cannot stand in the way of the axiomatic principle that ‘the goods which were created by God for all men should flow to all alike, according to the principles of justice and charity.’”
5. Pope John Paul II continued along the same line reaffirming the importance of work, ethics, and the special attention to social concerns by writing three Encyclicals. The first, Laborem Exercens, issued in 1981, reiterated the value accorded by Christianity to work; the second, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, issued in 1987, addressed the importance of social concern; while the third, Sollicitudo Centesimus Anni, issued in 1991 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Rerum Novarum  renews the interest in the proposed matters within the ministry of the modern day concerns.
6. Eastern Churches played the same role as the Western Churches in economic life. The
Second: The Historical Role of the
on the Educational and Economic Levels Maronite Church
7. The Maronite Church was historically known for the closeness between her leaders and her laity in addition to her other features in the hermetic tradition prominent in Christianity of the East. Among the principal factors that contributed in consolidating the pillars of the
8. Since the early days, the Church has also laid great stress on spreading education and science among her followers; this fact strengthened the status of the community and its members in the East, for they contributed greatly to the renaissance of the Arabic language. Their openness to the European civilization, which added to the intensifying efforts of the Church in spreading education and modern science among her children, had a great economic impact in ensuring the progress of the community and the spread of economic and social developments.
9. It is also useful in this context to recap the great economic role played by the Maronite religious orders in the flourishing of the mountainous regions through the establishment of monasteries throughout the country, and through the organizations and development of the agricultural projects. The proliferation of granting wakf estates on the part of Maronites has greatly contributed to the development of the monastic movement starting with the 18th century; it has also materialized on the part of the faithful the great trust in the Church and in the Orders, and in the positive economic interaction between the parish and the Church. In addition to agricultural work, monks practiced different professions such as medicine, law, printing, jewelry and construction. By such work, they consecrated the value of creative and productive work in society. Here, we feel obliged to mention what one particular monk once said when asked about his enthusiasm in performing hard and tiring agricultural work all his life, “God did not bestow on me a prolific pen or a fluent tongue in order to glorify Him and to serve my religious order. Rather, He gave me health, a mattock and agricultural experience, to use them all in glorifying Him, seeking forgiveness for my sins, sanctifying myself, and serving my brethren, servants of the Word!”
10. The role of the
11. During the French mandate, the Church brandished the banners of socioeconomic equity, especially during the mandate of Patriarch Arida, who publicly supported the rightful demands of tobacco farmers vis-à-vis the local administration of the French owned tobacco company, in addition to other just labor demands.
Third: Exhortation of Pope Paul VI on Progressio Populorum
12. The Catholic Church was characterized by major intellectual developments as it diverted its attention toward poverty and social injustice throughout the world, especially in what became known as the
Third World. This new focus was emphasized through the famous 1967 Encyclical entitled Populorum Progressio, following the lead of Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes. This particular document, under the leadership of John XXIII, who convoked the Council, focused on the position of the Church with respect to poverty and cultural regress. The Council confirmed that the Church, as “an expert in humanity” ought to scrutinize the signs of the times and to interpret them in the light of the Gospel. As the church is aware, of her mission of “service,” a mission distinct from the function of the State, even when she calls to reduce the sharp gap between the people, she remains in these positions faithful to its heritage along the centuries stressing the “universal purpose of goods.” It is worth noting here that both the Catholic and the Protestant communities, since the Vatican II Council, were experiencing major instability because of the deterioration of social conditions in Latin America, and the rise in liberation movements and in social violence in this continent, known for its commitment to Christianity. The 60’s and the 70’s witnessed the emergence of the Theology of Liberation that supported the liberation movements in the Third World, especially in Latin America, whose countries were suffering from the hegemony of various oppressive and feudal regimes. This movement called for the effective contribution of the faithful Christian individual in the movements of liberation against political and social oppressions.
These movements affected the Christian youth whose young Student Associations brandished slogans of social justice and struggle for the liberation of the people from all kinds of internal and external oppression. The famous declaration of the Christian Student Youth Organization meeting, held in October 1968, at Christ the King Monastery, adopted certain radical positions with respect to issues related to freedom, development, and social justice.
13. The activities of the members of the Church, since the declaration of
14. Again the Church discovers the need for a fair and just distribution of the fruits of collective work, along with the need to secure for the individual the necessary freedom that would cultivate a sense of responsibility in organizing his work. At the same time, the Church emphasizes the value of solidarity and the value of freedom, in the respect of justice and truthfulness. The economic system that respects man cannot do away with freedom for the sake of solidarity, nor with solidarity for the sake of freedom. It is necessary to secure the respect of these two principles in any economic system.
Church principles do not contradict with the classical fundamentals of economics; some of which are equal opportunities for those in the economic field to have equal access to information and prospects, especially prior to making important decisions and signing binding contracts, or the competition at the time of the production of commodities or the rendering of services. Some of the permanent teachings of the Church state that the government “must not be thought (of as) a mere guardian of law and of good order, but rather must put forth every effort so that ‘through the entire scheme of laws and institutions . . . both public and individual well-being may develop spontaneously out of the very structure and administration of the State.’” On a special note, this encyclical reminds us of earlier teachings of the Church: “The role of the government consists in two functions: First, protecting the rights of each individual; second, positive support toward a general prosperity, in order to secure both individual and community a better progress. This second concern is addressed in Rerum Novarum as follows: “The foremost duty, therefore, of the rulers of the State should be to make sure that the laws and institutions, the general character and administration of the commonwealth, shall be such as of themselves to realize public well-being and private prosperity.” (Rerum Novarum, Para. 32).
“Concerning the way it performs its duties, the government has to avoid finding solutions at the expense of private initiatives, individual or communal, as long as this initiative is capable of proper performance, in line with the principle of delegation” (Rerum Novarum, on the role of the government, pp 111-112).
Fourth: The Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for
and its Economic Message Lebanon
15. It is worth noting here that the message addressed by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the Synod for
The message of the Pope in his Apostolic Exhortation A New Hope for Lebanon indicates a deep understanding of present day Lebanese economic issues. The Pope addresses the Lebanese saying, “Like other peoples, because they particularly love their land, the Lebanese are called to safeguard their country, to tirelessly maintain fraternity and to build a just and balanced sociopolitical system that respects individuals and the different trends that make up the country, that they may build together their common habitat. No one can dodge his moral and civic responsibility that he should lawfully carry out amidst his people. Furthermore, every public figure, political or religious, and every party must take into account the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups, rather, the common good of the entire human family. In fact, action in public life is first and foremost a service responsible for the brothers – all the brothers – such that they use all means to ensure that everybody works in harmony. All those who accept the obligations of public service in the political, economic and social life, have an imperial duty in respecting certain moral obligations, and are to subordinate their individual or group interests, for the benefit of the nation. Thus, they become role models to their compatriots, working diligently such that their actions will be for the common good. This requires transcendence over egoism in order to live in a state of altruism that might even lead to self-abnegation, in order to guide all the people toward happiness through proper management of the public domain.”
16. The Holy Father adds, “The legal authorities of a nation are to exercise vigilance such that all communities and individuals may enjoy the same rights and be subject to the same obligations according to the principles of fairness, equality and justice. The governing body, as citizens performing a public service, should exert efforts to walk a straight path distinguished by humility, for the service of their fellow brothers, setting for them examples of honesty and integrity, since moral integrity is one of the indispensable essential elements of communal living.”
In this Exhortation, the Holy Father also talks about “human, personal and collective progress, and about the sense of partnership, of responsibility and of sacrifice.” He warns that ignoring this matter “can only lead to a profound instability in public relations, by exposing everyone to all kinds of arbitrary treatments, and, on the part of the public, to the inevitable loss of trust in national institutions.”
17. Thus, the Holy Father invites all Lebanese to “foster and promote in themselves, and particularly in the young generation, ‘a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.’ At the same time, it is desirable that an equal sharing of responsibilities is developed in the heart of the nation so that all can invest their talents and their capacities in the service of their brothers, and can feel that they have a specific contribution to give to their country, according to the delegation principle, through their personal creativity, and through the exercise of their spirit of initiative, each of which constitutes a right in itself.”
His Holiness adds, “In this spirit, everyone will promote the value of justice between the individuals and between the generations because iniquities give birth to violence, mistrust and egoism. At the same time, it is important to provide work to a maximum number of people, in order to avoid the social marginalization of some Lebanese, to avoid the dangerous debasement of their quality of life or their exposure to situations of extreme poverty. This will cause many to become disinterested in the life of their country, and can lead them to a kind of psychological migration, wherein they feel incapable of participating in the social life and feel as if there is no future in their homeland.”
From what has preceded, it has become very clear that those who are in the field of economics should always take into consideration the quality of human life along with the importance of technical expertise. They should never lose sight of the fact that economics is in the service of individuals and of human society.
Chapter Two: Reading the Present
First: Intellectual Economics Trends Since
18. After independence, new trends in economic concepts emerged contributing to the severance of the present from the past, from those traditions and principles overbearing on the social realm that call for the establishment of a just and consolidated society. This new thought is exemplified by the dominating focus on the inevitability that the Lebanese economy be unique, urging to make Lebanon’s economic role specialized in the trade and service sectors as an intermediary between the Arab and the developed countries, rather than the development of the agricultural and industrial sectors. This is provided that the State does not interfere in the economy, leaving for market mechanisms to control the rudder of economic and social conditions.
19. During that time all interests and concerns focused on Beirut, confirming it as a service trade center since the 19th century turning Mount Lebanon into a tourist center, and transforming Lebanon and its economy into a City-State, and a trade “republic” following the example of ancient Greek cities or City-State republics such as Venice or Geneva in Italy during the early European Renaissance. This economic vision was inspired by the ancient Phoenician heritage of the Lebanese coast, and by the postulation of an historic, human, and psychological continuity in social traditions and customs, and in economic perspectives between the ancient past and modern
20. The “Phoenician” vision of the recently independent economic entity was developed by a group of high-profiled businessmen and economists. This was clearly evident through the economic thoughts and visions that were tackled in the lectures of the Lebanese Symposium that took place in the mid 20th century; the debates and discussions that ensued from it were sometimes of a severe nature. The economic and political developments in the region helped this vision to succeed and justified the economic functions of the Lebanese entity, and led to the specialization of
21. After the Declaration of Independence, when the new vision of Lebanon’s economic functions emerged, the Maronite Church that had played a prominent role in supporting the social reformation movements in the 19th century and during the French mandate—by adopting pioneering reformative positions—began to somewhat feel as if her historical role in shedding light upon socioeconomic issues had come to an end.
22. It is true that the Maronite Church preserved her role in the fields of education and works of charity; but the absence of public positions in the midst of the socioeconomic changes and tensions that Lebanon witnessed from the Independence era up to the break out of the major conflict in 1975, created a kind of void that facilitated the rise of confessional tensions and of currents opposing social change or opposing expanding the role of the State into the socioeconomic sphere seeking to ensure equal opportunities. Such currents seeped into the minds of a group of Maronites. Other Maronites affiliated themselves with leftist parties promoting socialist policies. This division led to the creation of high tensions in the political life of the country. Thus, the
Second: Socioeconomic Reforms after the Events of 1958
24. This reform materialized by studying the situation in all regions, and checking the needs of the poor regions and of the marginalized groups, in order to put in place the socioeconomic policies that would secure continuous development and fair distribution of benefits to all regions and to all socioeconomic sectors. One of the conclusions of this study was that “it [was] impossible to overcome the obstacles preventing the birth of a civic sense and a genuine national harmony, unless it [was] done progressively. Otherwise, the other social sectors would not feel that establishing a strong national economy would provide them with enough real benefits. Accordingly, affluent groups should work toward alleviating the sharp social disparity between them and the less fortunate, and consequently, be prepared to accept certain measures of austerity and not avoid paying their taxes, exerting monumental lavish efforts aimed at developing deprived regions.” “This way the repulsion existing between some sectors of society, dormant until our present day, will soon disappear allowing the formation of a fraternal society…”
“It is not possible to address the issue of development in
“It was inevitable that there should be a sharp contradiction between the true rural Lebanon on the one hand, and Beirut on another; between the authentic rural culture dating back thousands of years, and the skill in deriving benefit and profits through the rapid turnaround of commodities and monetary instruments…” The aim behind the Shehab reforms was to implement a plan of reconstruction and reform in accordance with this diagnosis, basing it on two main principles, the first being social solidarity, and the second, the building of the state.
On the social level, the Shehab reforms tackled rural poverty and regional imbalance, by tearing down the isolation of remote villages, and by providing running water and electricity. They also developed the
25. The mention of these reforms is a prelude to a series of reflections on what may be the future role of the
Third: War and Reconstruction
1. Acts of Violence and Theft Committed by Armed Militias
26. Before the outbreak of the painful events of 1975,
27. The post-war reconstruction policies overlooked the necessity of reviving the productive capabilities of the country in the agricultural and industrial fields, and aiding the Lebanese to secure competitiveness for their products, especially with the fast-paced scientific, industrial and agricultural developments that had taken place in the Arab world and in the West between 1975 and 1990, and the spread of secularism, necessarily imposing the application of monumental efforts on society in the economic realm. Reconstruction policies focused on highly expensive infrastructure projects that were concentrated, again, in
28. In general, as of 1992, the reconstruction period was characterized by the accumulation of economic, financial, and social distortions as a result of inadequate estimation and poor planning. In their plans, reconstruction policies failed to be inspired by the principles of justice and equitable compensation for losses suffered by the Lebanese throughout the years of strife. Nor did these policies apply the previous reform principles, originally aimed at providing
29. The foregoing facilitated
30. The consequence of these policies was the building up of a giant debt for the Lebanese Treasury unprecedented in the world, whether in relation to the gross national product (190%), or to the size of
31. The Lebanese economic power brokers, Christians included, supported with enthusiasm the reconstruction projects during the first period. Perhaps that was due to the continuous influence of the old theory on the leading role of
3. Position of the Church on the Present Socioeconomic Situations
32. During this extremely critical stage of the history of our country, the
The result of the war and the marginalization of Christian political figures, allowed the
33. It is worthy of mention that the
34. Through his Sunday sermons, which touch upon socioeconomic issues, the Maronite Patriarch constantly calls upon the authorities to work on alleviating the severity of the social crisis, and on fighting the desire in the youth to leave their homeland. The talk of the Patriarch in this regard is always geared towards the benefit of the whole country and all groups of society. He also highlights the necessity of the State’s intervention in the economy to stop any additional dangerous deterioration. In fact, some of the available statistics and studies indicate a major drop in the standard of living in
35. A recent study estimates that “the monthly salary of the Maronite family living in
The same study indicates that the Mount Lebanon region, where Maronites are the overwhelming majority of residents, has the highest unemployment level in
Based on these givens, we hereby present the most important fields that we are to turn our attention to in the economic domain based on the spirit of the Apostolic Exhortation and the essence of the sermons of His Beatitude the Patriarch.
Future Perspectives and Suggestions
First: A Balanced Alternative Vision for the Lebanese Economy
1. Reaffirming the Ecclesiastic Principles and Values in the Socioeconomic Life and Defining Points of Divergence
a) A Return to the Moral and Ethical Standards of the Socioeconomic Life
36. The Synod announces that there is a need for bold comments or suggestions on the theme stance in respect to economic and social issues. This stance should be no less important than the one taken by the
37. This approach is compatible with the Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (Forty Years): “Certainly the Church was not given the commission to guide men to an only fleeting and perishable happiness but to that which is eternal. Indeed the Church holds that it is unlawful for her to mix without cause in these temporal concerns. However, she can in no wise renounce the duty God entrusted to her to interpose her authority, not of course in matters of technique for which she is neither suitably equipped nor endowed by office, but in all things that are connected with the moral law. For as to these, the deposit of truth that God committed to Us and the grave duty of disseminating and interpreting the whole moral law, and of urging it in season and out of season, bring under and subject to our supreme jurisdiction not only social order but economic activities themselves.”
During the last decades disappeared, from the Lebanese economic scene, the sense of solidarity and of collectivity, along with the implementation of ethical principles, both of which are in the core of Christianity’s teaching on economics. We also find in Forty Years: “Even though economics and moral science employs each its own principles in its own sphere, it is, nevertheless, an error to say that the economic and moral orders are so distinct from and alien to each other that the former depends in no way on the latter.
Certainly the laws of economics, as they are termed, being based on the very nature of material things and on the capacities of the human body and mind, determine the limits of what productive human effort cannot, and of what it can attain in the economic field and by what means.
Yet it is reason itself that clearly shows, on the basis of the individual and social nature of things and of men, the purpose which God ordained for all economic life” (Respecting the particularity of each).
“But it is only the moral law which, just as it commands us to seek our supreme and last end in the whole scheme of our activity, so likewise commands us to seek directly in each kind of activity those purposes which we know that nature, or rather God the Author of nature, established for that kind of action, and in orderly relationship to subordinate such immediate purposes to our supreme and last end. If we faithfully observe this law, then it will follow that the particular purposes, both individual and social, that are sought in the economic field will fall in their proper place in the universal order of purposes, and We, in ascending through them, as it were by steps, shall attain the final end of all things, that is God, to Himself and to us, the supreme and inexhaustible Good.”
38. It is worth noting here that the economic principles stated in the Ta’if Accord are perfectly compatible with the position of the Church, as has consistently been asserted by His Beatitude the Patriarch in his sermons. The Accord, whose text, in part, was incorporated into the Constitution, calls for administrative decentralization, for equal development in all Lebanese regions, which is the kind of development that has been lacking in Lebanon during the past one hundred years, as economic activities were concentrated in the capital and in parts of Mount Lebanon, and where the disparity in income, fortune and property ownership among the Lebanese increased greatly. The monetary and economic policies installed during the war and in subsequent years, were no more than further economic and social distortions, the consequences of which are the weakening of the Lebanese structure, subjecting it further to real estate procurements by non-Lebanese which is affecting economic, social and cultural fabric of the nation.
39. Undoubtedly, since independence,
40 What is striking here is that the religious Islamic movements, whether moderate or fundamentalist, in seeking to attract the underprivileged masses to their ranks, often stress in their political and religious speeches, on economic ethics and the necessity of applying Islamic Law (Shari'a) to restrain speculators and those who disrupt the economy through their parasitic and harmful acts. We must also remember that under the present circumstances, and more than ever before, income disparity in
b) Position vis-à-vis the Taxation System and its Amendment
41. The taxation system in
42. It is noteworthy to mentioning in this context that tragically, the income tax burden is shouldered by the working and producing sectors, that is, workers, employees, the independent professions and industrialists; and this system does not cover those who derive their income from financial investments, or from capital gains in stocks or real estate, except in a marginal way. This reality points to the hegemony of the powerful private interest group equipped with large capital funds or real estate holdings, over the Lebanese economy. Such a system impedes the economic growth of the country and the creation of sufficient employment opportunities.
The issue of just taxation and the effectiveness of a tax system, economically speaking, are considered as chronic issues in
The dream of
c) The Monetary System and the Public Debt Issue
43. The Lebanese monetary system, after being reconstituted since 1991, has secured a stable exchange rate in which the Lebanese found gratification, after what befell some in monetary loss in Lebanese Pounds, after the period of fierce competition against the national currency between 1984 and 1992-93. This new system erected and promoted by the government produce an enormous disparity in the interest rate structure between the interest rate on the Lebanese pound and that on the US dollar, despite the stability in the rate of exchange secured by the monetary authorities. This led to major economic and financial distortions that benefited some sectors and affiliations at the expense of the national economy.
It is difficult to explain these distortions in the interest rate structure, especially after the decline in inflation, the stabilization in the political and security climate in
Consequently, it is mandatory to give, at the economic level, a greater importance to the currency issue, and to
d) The Educational System and the Right of Staying in the Home-Land.
45. Even if we take into consideration the financial benefits of migration, taking into account emigrants’ remittances to their relatives in the homeland, educational institutions should strive to keep in
46. For that reason,
e) Importance of Close Contacts with Emigrant Communities.
47. It is true that
However, all these positive factors that can be utilized in getting the country out of its tragic economic situation described earlier, will not be converted into a rebuilding power on any respectable level, unless a clear social and economic vision matures, and if economic corruption is eradicated. It is posing as a barrier against the desire for the homecoming and settling of many a Lebanese immigrant, and the investment of their financial and human capabilities in the rebuilding
2. Towards a Productive Society
49. Many consider that emigration is an inevitable phenomenon in view of the limited geographical area of
50. A great number of small countries overcame successfully the constraint of their small geographical size and their lack of raw materials; they were able to develop highly productive economies and are now included in the list of the most developed industrial technology centers in world economy. This for example is the case with
a) Establishing a Comprehensive Support Policy for Productive Activities
51. The government and Lebanese financing institutions can work on establishing an active support policy that includes every new production activity undertaken outside the traditional service sectors concentrating on trade and tourism in the capital and its environ and on real estate projects for building luxurious apartments or shopping centers. Among the most important components of a support policy is the establishment of regional investment funds to contribute to capital earmarked for building new production facilities; to offer reasonably accessible loans to local promoters of such projects in each region; to establish industrial and service-orientated zones in every region; and to provide all production facilitations from roads, electricity, telecommunication, partial and temporary exemptions from some fees and taxes.
b) Continuous Cooperation between the Educational Institutions and the Private Sector to make
52. The desire for such a renaissance should help motivate us to aim at transforming
c) Ensuring Protection of Production Activities
53. In the framework of this aspiration for a real renaissance, effort should be exerted to protect production activities from any illegal competition originating from foreign products or services, especially in the agricultural and industrial sectors. In the last ten years, the government has signed agreements with neighboring countries and with the European Union freeing trade exchanges from restrictions. This was done without taking into consideration the deteriorated state to which these production sectors have reached, and without the Lebanese government taking a firm stand against other countries when they refrain from abiding strictly by the precepts of these trade agreements we have signed with them, thus, the latter party benefits whereas Lebanese production companies go bankrupt causing further loss in job opportunities.
d) Fighting Corruption in the Relation between the Public and Private Sectors
54. Corruption should be contended seriously, beyond the bounds of words, through a return to the fundamentals of established business ethics which the Church has been unceasingly declaring through the numerous encyclicals we have presented earlier. These are principles that converge with the fundamentals of the classical liberal economy which calls for transparency in economic and financial dealings, applying business ethics, barring monopolizing practices, and supplying equal opportunities, so market economy may provide universal prosperity. Modern economic theories ascertain the necessity of combating corruption in both the public and the private sectors, and in all dealings between them.
In this context, the interrelationship between the government and the private sector should be a relationship of collaboration and integration based on a continuous dialogue to achieve the aspired for productive renaissance, rather than having individuals from that sector and its institutions vie for special concessions and monopolies from the government to secure easy and huge profits at the expense of the Lebanese consumer and the principles of fair competition. In this regard, it should be noted that
e) Achieving Administrative Reform
55. Of the basic components of an all encompassing production renaissance are: a serious administrative and comprehensive reform, the increase of salaries in the public sector in order to thwart corruption and bribery. Moreover, decentralization should take place by transferring some of the government’s responsibilities in the social and educational domains to municipalities and unions of municipalities, accompanied by the transfer of some of the employees of central Government organs to local bodies, and the training of employees in the different administrations.
f) The Church’s Initiative to Reform the Distorted Lebanese Economic Course
56. It goes without saying that such a change in our economic traditions and to attain the desired reform course to reach the goal, will not be easily realized due to the modern historical courses assumed by the Lebanese economy since independence. There is no plausible reason for
In this respect, the Lebanese are eager to see a drastic change in the way the country’s economy is being managed. They are no less eager to keep their children in their homeland, living a decent and secure life. The
Second: Suggestions for Redressing the Lebanese Economy
1. Communicating and Disseminating the Church’s Position vis-à-vis the Necessity of Economic Reform
57. The Lebanese have a strong desire to see the
58. Furthermore, The Synod considers that an internal mobilization in the Church is vital so that her goods and resources in the economic and educational fields could serve as a fundamental instrument to ensure the continuity of keeping roots deep in the land of their ancestors, to help them hold on to their agricultural possessions in their rural areas and not to sell their real estate holdings in the cities. The Lebanese expect from the Church to regain her past role in preserving and safeguarding the essentials of rural life for a dignified existence in the mountains of Lebanon, and in contributing, through the creation of employment opportunities in the cities as well as in rural areas, to bring about the aspired to production renaissance. On this basis, the following suggestions were drafted.
2. Suggestion for the Rehabilitation and Mobilization of the Economic Capabilities of the Church
59. In view of the rich heritage of the Church and of the religious Orders which has made a key contribution to the building of the country’s economy on solid foundations, on ethical values, and on serious persevering work, members of the community consider that the Church has capabilities able to help them stay attached to their country and remain in it, yet provide a decent standard of living through the following measures:
a) Activating Eparchial Economic Councils
60. Making use of the properties and the endowed lands of the Church and of the Monastic Orders to contribute in finding employment opportunities and providing an adequate standard of living, especially in rural areas; mobilizing educational institutions and technical and vocational training institutions to survey the status of parishioners and propose projects, initiatives and measures that would improve the standards of living, and stop youth migration outside their region or country. These councils must carefully and accurately study the socioeconomic conditions in each eparchy; they should also survey the properties of the Church, assess their situation, and search for the ways and means by which these properties can be invested and exploited so as to contribute in creating job opportunities and improving the standard of living. These councils should also study the potential for cooperation with national labor organizations, with municipalities, and Lebanese and foreign finance institutes, seeking to activate economic life by establishing new economic facilities in the different fields.
b) Developing and Modernizing the Methods of Managing the Funds and the Properties of the Church and her Institutions
61. Establishing an advisory finance board at the Patriarchate to monitor the management of Patriarchal and eparchial funds and to coordinate between them, to give advice and guidance on the different methods in managing the Church’s economic assets, seeking to better serve the congregation and the desired economic revival in the country, without infringing on the financial autonomy of eparchies and religious orders. In order to achieve that, the Patriarchate must necessarily have all information and data on the special condition in every eparchy and the status of all temporal goods and other endowments of the Church and the Monastic institutions, in Lebanon and in the countries of expansion, and the way they are being utilized. This advisory board is to operate in cooperation with the social and economic council, proposing a method for fair distribution of Church funds among the eparchies, whereby a special mechanism is positioned to equalize the economic capabilities of every eparchy, commensurate with its needs and the size of its population.
Eparchies, the Patriarchate and the Monastic institutions have exerted inestimable efforts to introduce automation into the endowment administration and its accounting process. However, it seems there is a great need to apply effective ways and means to secure and optimize returns of these assets, and to instruct in the optimum use of these assets to achieve desired goals, and above all else, to help congregations remain in the homeland and refrain from selling their land. Given the importance of temporal goods in the life of the Church, it is necessary to conform the management of the assets of the Church and of the Monastic orders, not only in accordance with the requirements of the present economic and social phase in Lebanon, but also according to technologies and the modern precepts being applied in the economic and financial domains, including the erection of new economic establishments that the country and citizens need to provide for a multifaceted development.
c) Erecting a Council for Socioeconomic Development
62. Some of the most prominent functions of this Council are the appropriation of financial resources and human capabilities existing in the homeland and among the communities of the expansion, the drafting of plans and projections that would ensure solidarity, dignified living, and, halting the hemorrhage caused by emigration; provided the Council coordinates with the central organ responsible for the managing of goods at the Patriarchate, and with the economic councils in Lebanon and in the countries of expansion.
This is not a new idea. It has already been studied by a panel of experts simultaneously with a study covering the possibility of erecting a real estate funding establishment to buy the properties whose owners intend to sell. Those are the people who have no roots or no family and social connections in the region where these properties are situated, whether these sales are due to dire financial need, or for want of money, or due to losing confidence in their homeland and the desire to emigrate to the countries of expansion.
63. The project is based on the following principles:
a) Resorting to active participation between the children of the Church residing in
b) Adopting in the bylaws the principle of election and of equitable geographical and professional distribution of candidates participating in this council.
c) The formation of a futuristic economic vision that would help transform society, making it more productive, and ratifying the principle of developing applied programs and projects within an all-encompassing integral framework, executing it according to a scale of priorities and an annual plan within a five-year or a ten-year plan, providing a common platform that would technically address daily life issues in the sectors of economics, society, health, education, culture and environment, etc…
d) Incorporating advanced scientific principles in the duties of the proposed council, such as surveys in
e) Adopting the principle of continuous media exposure concerning the works of the council, and the cooperation between the council and other religious communities, and relevant government organs.
f) As for the headquarters of the council, its administrative structure, that is supposed to be established for its proper functioning, and its funding, they are all detailed in the suggestions given in the original proposal.
d) Necessity of Developing and Modernizing the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches
64. Promulgated recently, in 1990, the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches including the section related to the management of the “Church’s temporal goods” (Article 23), came at a time when the financial journey of
TEXT RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION MECHANISMS
1. Capitalizing on Human Capabilities.
1.a.: The Synod reminds that it is the duty of citizens and for their benefit to stay in their homeland and participate in its development and advancement. This would offer them better job opportunities.
1.b.: The Synod encourages tapping on human capabilities locally and prevent the scattering of the family throughout the world and persevere in making Lebanon a center of technical and technological superiority, and to benefit from the example of countries which developed their economies despite their limited size and the absence of raw material, establishing a concentrated productive economy such as Singapore, Denmark, Ireland, Sweden and Taiwan…
2. The Policy of Reinforcing Production Activities.
2. The Synod calls on the government and Lebanese finance institutions to employ the policy of support encompassing all new production activities outside the services sectors and real estate projects. It also calls for providing facilitated loans for small and medium size institutions and provide markets for product disposal.
2.a.: Erecting regional investment funds to participate in the capital of new production installations and offer reasonable conditions for loans to those initiating these activities.
2.b.: Erecting industrial and services zones in every region and provide all production facilitations and partial and temporary exemptions such as social security fees, income tax and the stamp tax.
2.c.: Endeavor to protect production activities from any illegal competition whose origin is foreign products and services, especially in the agricultural and industrial domains.
3. Equipping Church Economic Capabilities and Investing them.
3. The Synod recommends investing property and the capabilities of the Church in the economic and educational fields as a fundamental medium of preserving the constituents of life, especially the rural.
3.a.: Work with the economic councils in the eparchies and the monastic orders to survey properties and study their status and the methods of investing them.
3.b.: Examine the possibilities of cooperating with domestic work organizations, municipalities and Lebanese and foreign finance organizations to activate economic life.
3.c.: Activate the Supreme Economic Organization and widen its sphere of operation in areas of consultation and brainstorming.
4. The Taxation System.
4. The Synod reminds that the issue of tax justice and the effectiveness of the taxation system are some of the chronic issues in
4. The Synod calls for the need of amending the taxation system and the necessity of paying taxes, provided the government undertakes to fight gross corruption in government departments through which tax evasion takes place.
5. Administrative Reform.
5. The Synod calls on the government to accomplish administrative reform, which it calls for under every regime.
5. Adopting the principle of qualification and justice, and reward and punishment.
6. Condemning Transgressions Leading to the Outbreak of Corruption.
6. The Synod deplores monetary, economic and social transgressions, which lead to the spread of corruption, misbehavior and the accumulation of appalling wealth in the hands of a few, and the hands of all those employing illegal methods for amassing such wealth.
6.a.: Fighting corruption through serious means and operating in accordance with the already known economic conduct rules that the Church has not ceased disseminating through her many general directives, and as an example, prohibiting monopolizing activities, assuring equal opportunities, fighting corruption in the public sector and the private sector and any collusion between these two.
6.b.: Working to make the relationship between the government and the private sector a transparent one aiming for constant consultation to achieve the goal of the much desired production renaissance, and to prevent some in the private sector from securing from the government special privileges and concessionary positions assuring easy and huge profits at the expense of the Lebanese consumer and the principle of fair competition.
6.c.: Disseminate Church teachings in this context for the sake of sound behavioral enculturation in economic dealings.
. Negre, Pierre, Essais sur les conceptions economiques de Saint Thomas d’Aquin, (Essays on the economical conceptions according to St. Thomas Aquinas) Aix-en-Provence, Imprimerie universitaire de province, 1927
. Mater et Magistra (On Christianity and Social Progress), …Translated and edited by Fr. Haleem Risha, Harakat Adaala wa Mahabba (Movement for Justice and Charity) Publications, Jbeil, pp. 92-93
. Ibid, pp. 93-94
. Text note: “This is a very important assertion, because it proves that the natural right to private property comes only second in the context of the common objective of material goods. In another passage of this broadcasted encyclical Pius XII firmly states: Every Human being, in his capacity as a living creature endowed with reason, is entitled by nature to a basic right to “use earth’s material goods.” Then, it is to be noted that he comes forth clearer than Leo XIII and Pius XI, something also confirmed by John XXIII. Natural right to private property is not therefore an absolute right, because it is conditioned by the inalienable necessity of a fair distribution of material goods. This approach leads to a radical change in the concepts related to agriculture and agricultural reform, and categorically opposes the classical concept alleging the right to use our property to excess, without giving any attention to the others: the owner owns for the sake of all, “this is the truth of Christianity which is binding to everybody.” Ibid pp. 95-96.
. Father Maroun Karam, The Story of Ownership in the Lebanese Maronite Order,
. Populorum Progressio (On the Development of Peoples)
. “Notre Eglise en question – un dossier de l’Orient culturel”, Beyrouth, Edition de l’Orient, 1969
. Forty Years, translated and edited by the Lazarist Fr. George Abou Jaoudeh; Movement Justice and Charity Publication, Jbeil, p. 96.
Also, refer to Pope Pius XI’s Encyclical Quadragesimo Anno (On Reconstruction of the Social Order), promulgated May 15, 1931,
. Ibid p. 96
. Apostolic Exhortation, A New Hope for
. Ibid, p. 153.
. Ibid, p. 153-154.
. Ibid, p. 155.
. You can refer to these important lectures in the book “The Era of the Lebanese Seminar – Fifty Years of Lectures,” Dar Al Nahar Publishers,
. Father Lebret worked within the Ministry of General Planning for four years and implemented an important number of studies and surveys with the help of a team of Lebanese and French experts. The most prominent of those experts was Father Youhanna Maroun, who founded and managed the
. Mission IRFED- Liban, Besoins et possibilities de development du Liban, (Lebanon : Needs and Possibilities of the Development of Lebanon) 3 vol., Department of Planning,. 16, Beyrouth, 1961
. “Living Conditions of Households in 1997,” Directorate of Central Statistics and “Map of the Living Conditions in
. L’entrée des jeunes Libanais dans la vie active et l’émigration (Entrance of the Lebanese youth in the active life and the immigration), 3 volumes, Beirut: Saint Joseph University, 2002.
. Dr. Ibrahim Maroun, Economic Issues placed before the Maronite Patriarchal Synod.
. A note from the work cited in #19 above: “the estimation of this figure is based on statistical data on family income in Lebanon stated in the study of the office of Central Statistics: “Family Living Conditions in 1997”- Dirasat Ih-sa’iyya, Issue #9, February 1998- p. 68
. A note in the source stated in #19 above: “This figure has been calculated based on the statistical data provided by Reach Mass consisting of field studies on Lebanese family income according to religious confessions (unpublished). The figures on the buying power were based on the inflation indicator report published monthly by the association of Lebanese bankers in its Economic Letter, and on studies by UNICEF and the Office of Central Statistics: “Income الدخل” in ‘Study on the Condition of Children in Lebanon 2000’ (p. 65).”
. Note from Ibrahim Maroun’s cited work: “See Pius XI in Ubi Arcano (23 Dec., 1922), where the Pope states the essential principles for the relationship between economics and the Christian Code of Ethics, confirming, at the same time, their distinctiveness and their interconnection. This is what has been reaffirmed in the encyclical Forty Years.” (Encyclical Para.41)
. Ibid, pp. 107-108 (Encyclical
. Ibid, pp. 108-109 (Encyclical
. In this context, it is noteworthy to mention the generous initiative of one of the emigrants in 2000, who purchased Treasury bond for five years without interest for the sum of one hundred thousand US dollars in order to contribute in the alleviation of the debt crisis and in the hopes that thousands of well-to-do emigrants will follow suit. We should also shed light on the important donations received by the Lebanese Treasury (52 billion LBP) as compensation for the damages that befell the electrical infrastructure as a result of the Israeli attack in June 1999. This only shows the readiness of the Lebanese and their abilities to cater to the needs of their country when they feel that there is an atmosphere of change towards the better.