By now, especially after ex-Prime Minister Saad El Hariri’s resignation, we’ve heard the term ‘technocracy’ thrown around a lot. In the face of a resigned government, many are asking for a technocratic government, but there seems to be ambiguity surrounding what this term means. The general agreement is that a government should be formed, composed of people who know how to do their jobs, in order to lead the country to a better place, post-revolution. After having had to bear decades of politicians who have repeatedly failed to do their jobs , the prospect of professionals and experts taking the country by the reins seems appealing.
By definition, a technocracy is a government where the people in power are those who possess technical skills: scientists, engineers, etc. Currently, many are saying that there is a ruling oligarchy in Lebanon, whereby a small number of people wield all of the power. The people protesting want to overthrow these people – who they’ve been ruled by since the end of the civil war – and appoint experienced professionals instead.
A technocratic government seems to be necessary, especially in the transitional phase. In fact, for a transitional government, a technocracy might be the best fit. Some immediate decisions and changes must be made in order to adhere to the demands of the people. Steps must be taken in order to fix the infrastructure, which includes water and electricity. A specialist, for example, would know of different ways to make use of the country’s water resources efficiently, and would be able to figure out how to provide running water for the majority of the population. An environment specialist would know how to deal with the trash problem, and so on.
While it is important that experts make the decisions that will lead to the rebuilding of our country, it is also important to note that by choosing a select few to lead the country, we are creating a new elite. There’s a difference between how knowledgeable someone is in a certain field and how willing they are to apply that knowledge to serve the community.
Ministers should be held accountable for their decisions if the decisions they made do not benefit the people. While there is no denying that a certain level of expertise in their designated fields would make their jobs more effective, ministers are, first and foremost, at the service of the people and their demands. Many of the now resigned politicians were technocrats; this did not stop them from being corrupt.
Let’s say we do elect independent technocrats. They will most certainly have the expertise to propose plans, but will they have the power to execute them? Until they are given their positions, there is no telling whether or not they’ll have sufficient influence to put their plans into action.
Additionally, in the current situation, it is vital to focus on the human rights aspect of change, as many basic human needs are not being provided to the majority of the Lebanese population. Minorities like the LGBTQ+ community and the community of migrant domestic workers are being oppressed; women are dismissed and their role in society is still severely undermined; we don’t have social security. These issues may not necessarily be considered a priority to a technocratic government.
Expertise is not the only trait required to rebuild a country. A minister should always have the people’s best interest at heart; this is a trait a politician should have, not required of any technical specialist. In one of the many talks done by “Bedna Nthour, Bedna Na3ref”, at Gibran Khalil Gibran garden on the 26th of October, reporter Mohammad Zbib said (roughly translated), “I do not want a minister who knows how to make medicine, I want a minister who wouldn’t let anyone die at the doors of the emergency room.”