Stuck in the past: Universities, research and innovation in Lebanon

If you have read this blog before you’ll know that I’m getting back to a subject that I’ve always discussed, but it’s important, it’s essential and it deserves having more emphasis. Discussing it over and over again is the only way to promote how much important it has become.

To keep it brief, I don’t want to elaborate and write very lengthy paragraphs but I just want to say that throughout history and up till now, what defined a civilization were the things that it created and invented, innovation is what made civilizations great, and what gave to each of them its distinctive identity.
Our universities in Lebanon still provide top quality education but when it comes to research and innovation there’s an eerie void that shouldn’t last.
The education that we’re providing to our students is something from the past, it’s been discovered and formulated and it has become part of the history. Now what about giving them something for the future, what about involving them in crafting something for the future not only in applying information from the past, but also by using the leverage power of their minds to create things out of nothing, what about that? It’s beautiful and interesting, but unfortunately we’re far from it in Lebanon. Even the most prestigious universities in Lebanon have mediocre budgets for research and what is worse is that they have no strategy or vision to promote research and make it at the heart of the academic experience of their students, and at the heart of their existence as academic institutions as well.
The huge impact of this “stuck in the past” mentality is the unfortunate lack of innovation and creativity in our society and economic activity. I’ve been following the start-up scene in Lebanon and the MENA region in general, and it’s really sad that we didn’t see any of these start-ups achieve an important success. The main reason in my opinion is the lack of innovation.

If I ask you to give me two start-ups from Lebanon and the ME region, what will be the first names to pop in your head? I’m sure that many of you won’t be able to give two names and for those who can give a couple of names please tell me what difference did these start-ups make and how much success did they achieve during the course of their life time? Not much, right?
If I want to answer that question the first two names that come up in my mind are Cinemoz and MarkaVIP. Cinemoz is simply a copy of the American Hulu, the difference is that cinemoz has a library of Arabic movies and series, surely some people will argue that it offered too a technical solution to overcome the hurdle of the underdeveloped infrastructure in the region used for streaming media, but a technical solution is an on daily basis engineering routine it’s not innovation, and the whole concept of cinemoz is essentially a replica of Hulu, we’re just following the trend.
MarkaVIP is an online discount store offering a wide range of mid to high end brands, again what’s new here? Nothing, we neither invented e-commerce nor came up with the e-discount concept, it’s a copy of an activity that has matured for a long while in the west.

People are not searching to innovate, in Lebanon being early adopters in the region for a foreign technology makes us feel like gods coming to life straight down from the greek mythology, and if you think of it it’s really ridiculous. Following the trend and just following the trend is silly. Start-ups, technology conferences, accelerators, are all by themselves imported concepts because they became the trend in the west, and all these events loaded with talks that hold less value than their form and size, are more about social events than real work. People tend to associate themselves with them to get a social status and to boost their egos while the work done and achieved is little, and if you find this statement as incorrect please enlighten me and give me details on results, what were the results of these events over the last few years?
Now back to universities and the lack of research, it is the main problem because it’s the reason why we lack this engine of innovation, most of the successful American start-ups and ventures were started by PhD students and PhD programs’ drop outs. It is extremely important to promote the “think, create, innovate” culture to be able to put forward something new and interesting, the social and economic impacts of such a culture will be huge so it’s about time that we start giving this sector the big importance it deserves. Researching and discovering new ways to do things is an essential factor for any civilization that wants to grow, to promote itself and to protect itself.
So think, create, and innovate and always ask yourself: Where do I want to go today? The possibilities are endless if you harness the potential you have in your mind.

Demystifying 3G (and mobile communications)

“What’s 3G?” is a question that I’ve heard many times in the past few months, with the deployment of 3G in Lebanon many people around me started asking what is it about, what does it have to offer and why 3G?

Here’s an explanation that, albeit long, is easy to read (hopefully) for those who are not familiar with the field, and that is still detailed enough to be interesting, offering starting points for the curious inquisitive minds, there are many keywords that you can search and explore. The post will run in paragraphs quickly exploring the historical course of the development of the technology that lead to the 3rd generation in mobile telecom networks, if while reading you get bored or feel that things got too detailed skip to the next paragraph.

How it all started? 0G

With the development of the radio communications technologies during the WWII and the need for connectivity while being mobile in the post war era, developments for mobile telephony solutions were carried and resulted in what is now commonly referred to as 0G telephone systems or pre-cellular telephone systems.
The 0G systems were mobile radio telephones that allowed users to make calls to numbers on the fixed telephone network and vice versa, they were basically traditional radio communication sets(similar to the ones used by the police and the military) that allowed people to usually connect to an operator who personally took the dialing request to call a number on the fixed network. And this operator was in charge of vocally announcing on the radio network that a call is bound from the fixed network to one of the customers in order to relay it if he/she gets a reply from that particular customer.
There was a number of 0G systems developed in different countries such as the Mobile Telephone System, Improved Mobile Telephone System, Advanced mobile telephone system, Mobile telephony system D, etc.
So in a brief description, the handset used was very bulky, usually fitted in a brief case and the system usually required a person to relay phone calls. Improvements were made to eliminate the need for an operator but the capacity was always very limited: few channels were available for a tower covering a wide area and each channel was capable of carrying one customer.

Example: more info about the Bell MTS/IMTS can be found here: http://www.wb6nvh.com/Carphone.htm

0G cell phone

Improved 0G cell phone


1st Evolution: 1G

As communicating while being mobile grew more popular in the 70s, the 0G systems suffered quickly from interference and congestion due to the limited resources of the design (few radio channels) and the lack of any multiple access scheme to allow more users to make simultaneous calls. A remedy was needed to solve this problem and to create a service that can be easily available for a large number of customers.

Key technology in 1G: Cellular networks.

The idea was smart and simple to implement, the creation of coverage cells with each cell servicing customers who are in its coverage area. This allowed to distribute the available channels on these cells and reuse them infinitely (relatively) in cells that are far enough from each other. By using higher frequencies in 1G compared to 0G it was possible to practically reuse these frequencies due to the fact that higher frequencies will attenuate more over the same distance, thus reducing interference. So it was possible to reuse the same frequency in cells that were relatively far from each other and this was a key factor in increasing the capacity of the system.

Handover, which is the technique that allows a user to remain connected to the system as he moved across the coverage areas of different cells was also created.

Cell overlap allowing handover

More info about cellular networks can be found here: http://www.site.uottawa.ca/~ivan/cellular.pdf

The system was a big evolution compared to the old 0G systems however the handsets were still bulky. They were not easy enough to handle and carry in order to provide a comfortable mobile telephony experience. As the technology grew popular, the system suffered from congestion especially in dense urban areas.

Why congestion? The system was analog (the voice as an acoustic pressure wave is converted into an analogous electrical signal, the latter one was transmitted through electromagnetic waves, received at the other end and converted back as is to an acoustic wave at the receiver’s end), that meant that each user occupied a frequency when he was calling and it couldn’t be used by another user, and since the number of allocated frequencies on each cell was limited, the number of users making calls in each cell simultaneously was very limited. Another limitation on the system added to the bulky handsets and limited capacity was the fact that the handsets consumed hefty amounts of power and even with the huge battery used on them they still needed to be recharged frequently; battery life was around one hour of talk time in a device that weighed around 730g, devices were slimmed down to around 300g by the late 80s and early 90s but the talk time was still around 1hour per battery charge.

Obviously, solutions to capacity problems, power drainage and the huge battery were needed and that’s what lead to the 2nd generation or 2G.

1G analog mobile phones

2nd Evolution: 2G

By the late 80s early 90s, mobile communications have become an integral part of the popular culture. Devices got relatively smaller and cheaper thus becoming more attractive and allowing a bigger number of people to access the service. However the nature of the 1G system was not able to accommodate such a growth due to physical limitations as we’ve seen in the previous paragraph, so a technical solution was needed to evolve and move to a better system. Many systems were developed around the world but the most popular and widespread one, was and still is, the GSM system.

Key technologies in 2G: TDMA & Digital Signal Processing (which were allowed by the digitization of the system), and using channels with a bigger bandwidth. 

The main limitation of the 1G system came from its limited multiple access scheme, one frequency was equal to one user dedicated voice channel. A new access scheme was needed to use the available frequency bands more efficiently and that’s where TDMA(Time division multiple access) came to play its role. Instead of separating users by putting them on different frequencies only(frequencies that were limited in number) few users were made able to share the same frequency by allocating it to each user for a limited amount of time called a time slot (8 slots per frequency in GSM), and thus multiple users were able to talk simultaneously using the same frequency.

The digitization of the system allowed the usage of TDMA and opened the door for using digital signal processing techniques, especially compression. The voice acoustic signal is converted into an analog electrical signal first, the analog electrical signal is sampled then quantized and converted into a bit stream , that’s how it becomes digital, then audio codecs or vocoders are used to reduce the bit rate (from 64kbps down to as low as 9.6kbps for GSM) while keeping an intelligible and good voice quality. And this rate reduction resulted in a better usage of the allocated spectral bandwidth.

Definition: To avoid confusion with other metaphorical definitions, when I say Bandwidth I mean by it the spectral bandwidth which is the width in hertz of a dedicated space in the frequency spectrum used for a particular radio communication.

An additional benefit due to the digitization of the system was channel coding, which is the usage of special coding techniques (Block and Convolutional for GSM) to combat errors due to interference and fading on the wireless path.
All these techniques helped the 2G systems to achieve a better voice quality, increase the overall efficiency and capacity compared to the limited 1G.

Another feature worth mentioning is the increase of the channel bandwidth from around 30KHz for the 1G systems to around 200KHz for the 2G systems namely the GSM (although 30KHz are largely sufficient to carry the human voice that doesn’t go above 4 KHz normally). This increase helped to achieve the same channel capacity while significantly reducing the transmit power needed and that’s mainly how batteries got smaller and talk time increased.

This change was due to a better understanding of Claude Shannon’s work who is considered to be the father of “information theory”. To roughly explain how this bandwidth increase delivered this improvement I’ll cite the equation defining the capacity of the simplistic Additive White Gaussian Channel (white noise is the background noise normally found in nature) which was found to be:

B is the bandwidth, S is the signal power and N is the noise power.

We can quickly notice that the capacity is directly proportional to the bandwidth, whereas the signal power is inside the log which is an increasing concave function. And that means that the effect of signal power S on the channel capacity is severely dampened by the log function, thus the huge increase in signal power needed to reach a given capacity can be easily replaced by a much smaller increase in bandwidth to reach the same capacity.
The work of Shannon remained unfortunately relatively unknown in the engineering community for a long while due to various reasons, however I highly recommend his paper “A Mathematical Theory of communication” if you have a good mathematical background and have a taste for communication technologies, it’s one of my favorite papers for its clarity, elegance and revolutionary impact on the telecommunication technologies we have today http://cm.bell-labs.com/cm/ms/what/shannonday/shannon1948.pdf

And that’s basically how 2G systems provided us a higher capacity and higher quality calls and grew so popular to accommodate more than 3 billion users in 2011.

3rd Evolution: 3G

The development of 2G systems started in the early 80s, and their deployment began in the late 80s and early 90s and that’s before the official commercialization of the internet in 1995. When 2G systems were designed, they were designed to efficiently carry voice calls, and these systems were similar to landline networks in being circuit switched, that means a dedicated physical circuit is established between the callers each time a call is made. This circuit switched nature is very different from the interconnection system used in the internet. The interconnection system of the internet doesn’t establish dedicated physical circuits between the source and the destination, it uses data packets labeled with destination addresses that are thrown into the network and left for transport protocols to deliver them, the way they please, based on the addresses labeling these packets.
All 2G systems were not compatible to carry packet switched traffic, GPRS (General Packet Radio Switching) was added to GSM to offer a solution but it remained limited in potential and capacity. Later on EDGE (Enhanced Data rates for GSM Evolution) was developed but it still didn’t satisfy the hunger for wireless data connectivity. By the end of the 90s with the exponential growth of the internet and the business potential and importance it carried, a dire need to introduce mobility to the internet appeared, and designers and standardization bodies started to release new standards for a new system that made it possible to connect to the internet while being mobile and that’s how we evolved to 3G.

3G key technologies: DSSS (Direct sequence spread spectrum), WCDMA (Wideband Code division multiple access)

DSSS is a technology that was initially developed for the military at the end of WWII and afterwards as a means to combat jamming, the main idea is to spread a certain stream of data that will be communicated by multiplying it with a code that has a much higher data rate(called chip rate in this case), the result of this operation is that the initial spectral bandwidth needed for communication is spread over a much larger one. This operation almost hides the signal under the noise floor, and at the receiving end, the receiver knows the code used and uses it to de-spread the signal using the same operation done at the transmitters end; it extracts the signal from the surrounding noise and spreads the latter one at the same time. This results in what is called a processing gain that further enhances the signal power to noise power ratio.

WCDMA is used to apply the DSSS technique (it provides the codes with which the initial signal is multiplied for spreading), and to allow multiple users to connect simultaneously.
In GSM we’ve seen that users were separated by frequency(FDMA) by having different users put on different frequencies, and those who are on the same frequency are separated by time (TDMA) by allocating that frequency for a defined period of time (Time slot) to each user.
In 3G the game has changed and the air interface has changed, all users can use the same frequency the whole time and they’re separated by orthogonal and pseudo-orthogonal codes attributed to them, you can think of it by lots of people in a room talking at the same time but each couple is using a different language and anything else they hear is just unintelligible noise.

Example on orthogonal codes: Walsh Codes http://www.elsevierdirect.com/companions/9780123735805/pictures/Appendix_D.pdf

This technique allowed a better efficiency in the usage of the spectral bandwidth, there was no need to partition it into frequency bands and distribute them among cells, so the bandwidth used jumped from 200KHz in GSM to 5MHz in UMTS, which increased the capacity on the system, gave a lot of room to increase the data rates, and hence allowed a better support for internet applications in addition to live video calls.

These are the main and most important factors that made the migration to 3G, further developments were made to achieve even higher rates (HSPA, HSPA+) that introduced additional techniques in the radio access network, new channels were introduced in the physical layer and transport layer, new faster packet scheduling techniques were introduced, Hybrid Automatic Repeat Request was introduced to guarantee error correction with minimum retransmissions, and adaptive modulation techniques were introduced in the physical layer (going from QPSK up to 64QAM) and MIMO (multiple input multiple output) was introduced starting from the release 7 of the standard. All these techniques aimed at increasing the spectral efficiency to load more bits/s on each hertz of frequency thus allowing higher, much higher data rates.

So basically that’s in an extremely brief way what 3G is about and how mobile communications evolved to reach it. The system is obviously way much more complicated than this and you have experts specialized in each part of it, it’s not possible to be an expert in all its intricate details. However I want to mention a feature of the coverage in the radio access part that affects the users very much especially in Lebanon which is “cell breathing”.

Cell breathing:

In 3G and due to the fact that users are using the same frequency all the time, a base station (NodeB in 3G) constantly changes the range of the geographical area it covers. As the number of users increase in the cell the coverage shrinks to ensure proper service to the users and to force users at the edge of the cell to switch to other nearby cells. So the main idea behind cell breathing is “load balancing” to efficiently distribute users among cells and to avoid interference between users due to differences in their transmission power.

What you need to know in Lebanon:

-Cell breathing is a feature that affects cell coverage in 3G, and since the network was forcibly launched before achieving adequate coverage because of political reasons, the network still has many dead spots and cell breathing can make this even worse making the reception bars go from full to none while you’re sitting in your couch. Your phone will be forced to fall back to the GSM network through a hard-handover mechanism, and this means that a new connection has to be established with the GSM network and this in its turn means if you were in an active call it’ll be dropped and cut.

-Power consumption: Your battery won’t last in 3G mode same as in 2G, though the power per bit needed in 3G is less than in 2G but the amount of data that you transceive is significantly higher and the signaling (registering with the station, power control, etc.) with the base station (NodeB) is more important thus leading to more power drainage. Add to it an abnormal amount of hard handovers from/to GSM due to the reasons stated in the previous paragraph that will increase the signaling overhead, the power consumption will be higher even than in normal 3G operation.

What you can do:

– Never force your phone to 3G mode only, even in the best 3G networks the GSM remains as a backup network and still holds a significant amount of the voice calls and data sessions.
– If you’re experiencing lots of drops in calls, force your phone to GSM, its coverage is more mature in Lebanon and congestion is less likely to happen on it, switch back to GSM/3G dual mode when you want to connect to the internet and make heavy data sessions.
– Don’t forget that your phone will drain more power from your battery, charge well before you go out, forcing phone to GSM when not in need for heavy data sessions can significantly increase your battery life.
– And finally keep on lobbying and pressuring to improve the 3G network, don’t believe the operators and the ministry of telecommunications that it provides one of the best services in the middle east, all Lebanese expats know from experience that it’s not true.

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to drop a comment.

Social injustice in Lebanon

Social injustice is a problem getting worse day after day in Lebanon. The gap between the poor and the rich is becoming wider each hour, and there’s a general unfairness that is becoming more present and visible in the Lebanese society.
And what’s making the problem worse is that social justice as an issue and a concept is totally absent from the Lebanese political life and remains unaddressed by both the government and the political class. The civil society itself is dormant and unstirred by such problematic issues; nothing moves the Lebanese citizen in general except populist notions that have a shallow sectarian nature.

Not only there’s a lack of vision and policies to address this problem, there are policies, laws, systems and privileges that deepen this problem instead of finding solutions for it. So let’s look at few examples:

– Ever heard about the Lebanese university professor who sends his/her kids to an expensive private university and gets more than 50% of the tuition fees reimbursed by the Lebanese state i.e using all Lebanese tax payers’ money? Same applies to teachers in public schools, you have the public high school principal who puts his/her kids in an expensive private high school and the Lebanese state pays a high percentage of their tuition. A middle class Lebanese citizen can only send his/her kids to the Lebanese university and low quality public schools run by those who send their kids to better schools/universities.

– Ever heard about the public sector employee who signs in at 8am and leaves and 8:30am to his private business then comes back to sign in at 3pm to get paid as an overtime employee, without working 1 single hour?

– Working hours in the public sector are generally way much less than in the private sector, the salaries however are not.

– The nature of employment in the public administration is for life and beyond, they don’t get fired except for criminal reasons and even with a lot of fraud crimes they are protected and continue with their jobs that offer them numerous benefits (health insurance etc.), and additional cash from bribes, while in the private sector employees are not protected and can be fired easily.

– Public sector employees have retirement plans and big amounts of end-of-service compensations while this doesn’t necessarily apply to the private sector. Professional orders for engineers/pharmacists/ Doctors etc. can offer such schemes but lower profile professions, self-employed people don’t have any protection or retirement plans whatsoever.

– Public sector employees have historically had an easier access to loans from public sources especially for housing.

And there are many more examples that show how a public sector job is a privileged job while private sector employees and self-employed people are left for their hard work and luck to live their lives. Needless to say that this is the reason why people die on hospitals’ doors, live in buildings that are on the verge of collapse, get humiliated when they become old and weak even after a life full of hard work. And this unbalance/injustice between the lucky who can get a job in the public sector and those who are self-employed or in the private sector is why the whole public sector has become a fiefdom for the corrupt political class, they have the power to appoint people in the public administration and give them these privileges, they have the power to remove them too, so they enslave people, and run the public administration the way they please as if it’s their private property.
We need a serious change in regulations and policies to create a system that respects all the Lebanese citizens in a just manner, it’s every citizen’s right to benefit from the public money to which he/she is contributing, fiefdoms and islands of privileges should be abolished if we’re looking to evolve and become a respectful prosperous country.

Social injustice in Lebanon

Social injustice is a problem getting worse day after day in Lebanon. The gap between the poor and the rich is becoming wider each hour, and there’s a general unfairness that is becoming more present and visible in the Lebanese society.
And what’s making the problem worse is that social justice as an issue and a concept is totally absent from the Lebanese political life and remains unaddressed by both the government and the political class. The civil society itself is dormant and unstirred by such problematic issues; nothing moves the Lebanese citizen in general except populist notions that have a shallow sectarian nature.

Not only there’s a lack of vision and policies to address this problem, there are policies, laws, systems and privileges that deepen this problem instead of finding solutions for it. So let’s look at few examples:

–          Ever heard about the Lebanese university professor who sends his/her kids to an expensive private university and gets more than 50% of the tuition fees reimbursed by the Lebanese state i.e using all Lebanese tax payers’ money? Same applies to teachers in public schools, you have the public high school principal who puts his/her kids in an expensive private high school and the Lebanese state pays a high percentage of their tuition. A middle class Lebanese citizen can only send his/her kids to the Lebanese university and low quality public schools run by those who send their kids to better schools/universities.

–          Ever heard about the public sector employee who signs in at 8am and leaves and 8:30am to his private business then comes back to sign in at 3pm to get paid as an overtime employee, without working 1 single hour?

–          Working hours in the public sector are generally way much less than in the private sector, the salaries however are not.

–          The nature of employment in the public administration is for life and beyond, they don’t get fired except for criminal reasons and even with a lot of fraud crimes they are protected and continue with their jobs that offer them numerous benefits (health insurance etc.), and additional cash from bribes, while in the private sector employees are not protected and can be fired easily.

–          Public sector employees have retirement plans and big amounts of end-of-service compensations while this doesn’t necessarily apply to the private sector. Professional orders for engineers/pharmacists/ Doctors etc. can offer such schemes but lower profile professions, self-employed people don’t have any protection or retirement plans whatsoever.

–          Public sector employees have historically had an easier access to loans from public sources especially for housing.

And there are many more examples that show how a public sector job is a privileged job while private sector employees and self-employed people are left for their hard work and luck to live their lives. Needless to say that this is the reason why people die on hospitals’ doors, live in buildings that are on the verge of collapse, get humiliated when they become old and weak even after a life full of hard work. And this unbalance/injustice between the lucky who can get a job in the public sector and those who are self-employed or in the private sector is why the whole public sector has become a fiefdom for the corrupt political class, they have the power to appoint people in the public administration and give them these privileges, they have the power to remove them too, so they enslave people, and run the public administration the way they please as if it’s their private property.
We need a serious change in regulations and policies to create a system that respects all the Lebanese citizens in a just manner, it’s every citizen’s right to benefit from the public money to which he/she is contributing, fiefdoms and islands of privileges should be abolished if we’re looking to evolve and become a respectful prosperous country.

5 years of blogging

It’s the 5th anniversary of this blog, and it’s one of those milestones where you look back at things to see what you have achieved. I can say that I am satisfied about the content of this blog, though dry and largely unpopular but it spoke and continues to speak about issues important to me, and in my personal opinion important in an absolute manner because they are priority issues affecting our lives, especially in Lebanon.

I am perfectly aware that this type of subjects is dry and unappealing and will not draw interest as much as blogs discussing lifestyles, reviewing movies and restaurants, or highlighting the latest fashion trends. Although, lifestyle, food, cinema, communication blogs are fun but these issues can’t be the center of our interest all the time, there are the more important issues shaping our future and our lives. So this blog is less about popularity and more about opinions regarding political, economic, and strategic issues that have a direct and severe impact on our lives and our future, that’s what this blog is striving to be.

Now moving to see how much this blog has been successful after 5 years, it’s been a total failure at drawing interest that’s for sure, but when it comes to content and the quality of content I am satisfied about it. It pointed the finger at vital issues, shed light on problems, tried to propose solutions and I can site many posts as an example, one of them is this post http://thelablive.blogspot.com/2010/03/untitled.html written two years ago and sounding the alarm on the deteriorating situation in the real estate sector, and warning from inflation and working class problems almost two years before buildings started to collapse and the wages crisis took place in Lebanon.

This blog has tried and will continue to try to shed light on the basic faults in the Lebanese system that are breeding an avalanche of continuous problems. It will also continue to tackle strategic issues concerning the region and the world.
Most similar blogs discuss things as they happen but over here it’s more about casting a vision for things, about establishing clarity to determine what is wrong and to determine the structural problems holding us back, because once you have identified where you need to improve you’ll be able to put effort and energy to make a change, otherwise we’ll continue to be lost and words will remain nothing more than ink on paper and pixels on screens.

So I’ll continue to look forward for your comments and ideas and I will try to improve the quality of the content on this blog, I’ll be phasing out random personal writings to another blog and sticking to strategic political and economic issues on this blog.
So if you’re interested in such issues, keep coming back, things are about to get better.

5 years of blogging

It’s the 5th anniversary of this blog, and it’s one of those milestones where you look back at things to see what you have achieved. I can say that I am satisfied about the content of this blog, though dry and largely unpopular  it spoke and continues to speak about issues important to me, and in my personal opinion, important in an absolute manner because they are priority issues affecting our lives, especially in Lebanon.

I am perfectly aware that this type of subjects is dry and unappealing and will not draw interest as much as blogs discussing lifestyles, reviewing movies and restaurants, or highlighting the latest fashion trends. Although, lifestyle, food, cinema and communication blogs are fun but these issues can’t be the center of our interest all the time, there are the more important issues shaping our future and our lives. So this blog is less about popularity and more about opinions regarding political, economic, and strategic issues that have a direct and severe impact on our lives and our future, that’s what this blog is striving to be.

Now moving to see how much this blog has been successful after 5 years, it’s been a total failure at drawing interest that’s for sure, but when it comes to content and the quality of content I am satisfied about it. It pointed the finger at vital issues, shed light on problems, tried to propose solutions and I can cite many posts as an example, one of them is this post  https://thelablive.wordpress.com/2010/03/19/untitled-2/ written two years ago and sounding the alarm on the deteriorating situation in the real estate sector, and warning from inflation and working class problems almost two years before buildings started to collapse and the wages crisis took place in Lebanon.

This blog has tried and will continue to try to shed light on the basic faults in the Lebanese system that are breeding an avalanche of continuous problems. It will also continue to tackle strategic issues concerning the region and the world.
Most similar blogs discuss things as they happen but over here it’s more about casting a vision for things, about establishing clarity to determine what is wrong and to determine the structural problems holding us back, because once you have identified where you need to improve you’ll be able to put effort and energy to make a change, otherwise we’ll continue to be lost and words will remain nothing more than ink on paper and pixels on screens.

So I’ll continue to look forward for your comments and ideas and I will try to improve the quality of the content on this blog, I’ll be phasing out random personal writings to another blog and sticking to strategic political and economic issues on this blog.
So if you’re interested in such issues, keep coming back, things are about to get better.

Tagged

Fragmentation

The recent political and social situation in Lebanon is becoming more alarming day after day, Lebanon that was supposed to be a message about tolerance and common living is surfacing as a solid message about what to avoid and what to not become. We’ve grown to become a vertically fragmented society where communities have nothing in common other than the bad luck of existing together on the same piece of land. We ended up with xenophobic religious communities who elect and support xenophobic religious and political leaders who are in constant conflict over the share of power they can have, in order to control and loot whatever can be looted out of that ghost of state that is Lebanon.

The Lebanese society has proven in the last decade that it comprises a majority of zealots whose daily struggle in this country is about oppressing, controlling, and humiliating each other.

This situation is alarming because not only it’s killing the prospects of prosperity and growth in this country, it is dragging us down to levels that threaten the life and existence of the Lebanese people, it is suffocating them, but they stupidly continue their circus of bigotry and carelessness driven by a serious lack of ethics while judging things, and by brainwashed heads that cannot think outside the religious/ideological frame in which their minds are boxed since their infancy.

The whole recent wages problem is a direct result of this situation; we’re in a dilemma where without a wage increase even middle class people cannot meet their needs and a wage increase will force the companies employing them to go out of business. This is a direct result of a political class acting as a mafia that uses politics to serve its special and personal interests. Those politicians control the major economic sectors in the country and they run them in a way to serve their particular interests and to stay in control, and in parallel to that, they fight over how much each of them can control. And all that is happening while we are in a dire need for sound politics that build and develop the country and look into solving its flagrant structural problems that are all a threat to our national security.

I’ll give the example of the energy sector which should be at the top of the list, when a plant or a commercial company has a nano-gain margin because it pays an energy bill that is 4-5 times higher than the one paid by its competitors it’ll definitely go out of business if you force it to increase wages. And the problems in other types of basic infrastructure have similar effects, but where are we in politics from all these issues? We’re light years behind, no one is seriously working to solve them while we’re sitting on a serious threat that will grow exponentially out of control. With economic hardship comes increased misery, increased corruption and increased crime which all shoot back on the whole situation dragging it down furthermore, less growth, less attractiveness, less investments, and less jobs. Add to it lower quality of life, of education, of services etc.

My wish for the upcoming year is to see more fellow Lebanese getting out of the bigotry circle and expressing their refusal against this political class, starting by the ones they support before the ones they passionately hate, I wish to see a Lebanese youth feeling the urgency of the situation and working towards a healthy change, towards solutions for a brighter future on a national level and for a tolerant society that holds us together because the destiny of this country joins us together and the only other alternative is a black, dark one.
Happy holidays.