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Could The Bermigo Plan

Slash The Endemic Corruption

In Palestinian Governance?

 

Before examining whether Palestinian governance could be thoroughly cleaned up, we need to ask an ungracious – but legitimate – question: Is clean government really essential for peace? After all, few countries are more corrupt than Egypt, Nigeria, Cameroun, et al and yet they don’t exhibit violence towards their neighbors. So couldn’t Palestine be modeled along the same lines; why bother with a major undertaking like the Bermigo Plan to bring Palestine up to Western standards?

The problem is the ‘corrupt’ model won’t work for Palestine; in the examples just given, public discontent finds internal outlets or, in some cases, non-violent external outlets – whereas discontent among Palestinians immediately channels itself towards Israel. And towards the 'stooges' of Israel like the Western-favored Palestinian Authority. In none of the ‘corrupt-but-peaceful’ countries, do any bristle with hatred towards a neighboring state that expelled half the peaceful country’s residents, expropriated –irrevocably– all those residents’ homes and properties, and adamantly refuses to grant the refugees even the right to reside in their former domicile.

In short, if you want Palestinian society to embrace a new vision – and not bale out of the venture and return to attacking Israel due to the project being led by corrupt and self-interested officials propped up by the West – you need to make very sure that the Palestinian government and civil service are consummately serving the public, not fleecing it.

So, how could this be accomplished?

Well, if polls reveal that the Bermigo Plan would be wall-to-wall acceptable to the Palestinian public, we surmount the first critical hurdle – we have a willing and cooperative recipient for the program. Which brings us to the next critical question: does the program have what’s needed to actually deliver? In the aspect of the plan we are looking at here, could the Bermigo Plan invest in Palestine in a way that would end corruption, rather the West’s lamentable tradition of adding funds to a honey pot that gets siphoned off into nefarious pockets.

The Bermigo Plan’s strategy for dealing with corruption has several prongs. For one, aid would be channeled solely through the Western teams on site, who in turn would dispense it directly to the end recipient. No local middlemen of any kind, no local political intermediaries at any level. The ‘direct to end-recipient’ was one of the measures successfully employed in the original 1948 Marshall Plan.

In parallel, the much-heralded Marshall Plan developed the idea of ‘counterpart funds’, a dual-benefit scheme designed to save cash-strapped Europe foreign currency and concomitantly get the U.S. economy growing. The Marshall team accomplished both tasks by essentially granting coupons to Europe to purchase American goods.

The Bermigo Plan takes a leaf out of this Marshall idea, too, and would use a ‘multiple-benefit’ stratagem – but tailored to handle Palestine’s particular predicament. To illustrate how this would work, let me give a concrete example.

In the Bermigo venture, there’d be a top economic command under which more than a dozen Western teams, each with its own field of expertise and with its own ward, would operate. For the example here, we’ll take the Western team assigned to meeting Palestine's housing needs.

The team identifies a need for 2,000 new housing units in Nablus and publishes a tender, inviting all interested Palestinian contractors to make a bid. The team chooses a number of contractors and makes an initial deposit to each. Building proceeds apace, and the Western team managers take on board for training purposes several dozen officials from Palestine’s housing ministry. The local officials are not granted authority to select bids, nor dispense Western money; their primary task is to record daily how building progress matches the schedules the contractors were committed to. Every few days, the Western managers make on-site checks to verify the logs.

As the months proceed, the Western managers obviously get to observe which of the building contractors are up to the job, and which aren't. This Western team also learns which aspects of the construction business are not well rendered in Palestine – and pass on recommendations to the Western unit responsible for establishing the curriculum for Palestine's new technical training schools.

Plus, the Western managers become well acquainted with the local housing-dept officials they’ve apprenticed, and uncover – and deal with – any shortfalls in the officials’ technical training. For their part, the government officials get first-hand exposure to the environment a proper, corrupt-free team operates in and go on to adopt the same procedures (in order to keep their jobs, if nothing else). Indeed, their activities will be discretely – but firmly – monitored by the Western professionals.

After their training term is up, the local Palestinian officials return to their regular government posts, and the next batch of officials from that dept are taken on board by the Western team. After 5 years or so, all members of that dept will have gone through the training regimen.

This process, overseen by its assigned Western team, is replicated in every branch of activities in Palestine – in education, transport, infrastructure, health, environment, etc. After 5 years, each of the Western teams will obviously have become well familiar with all Palestine's key government players and private businessmen in that particular area of expertise.

The Western teams now start winding down the first phase of the program, and increasingly take on the role of monitor – a discrete, but very diligent board of directors, if you will. For its part, the Palestine government should now have vastly increased revenue due to a fully-employed population where a high percentage pay taxes. (The Bermigo venture would have the upfront commitment from the Western powers to invest enough in Palestine to provide full employment).

And so, in our housing-project example, after approx 5 years all like projects will now be commissioned and paid for by the Palestine government. The slightest corruption in any dept will immediately be spotted by the Western teams – moreover, the close relations between the Palestine government staff and their former Western mentors will enable local whistle-blowers to inform the Western teams in complete confidence. 

In sum, this particular prong of the Bermigo Plan will do multiple service at both ends of the corruption pole; at the one end, eliminating the existing various fonts of corruption, and at the other end, introducing an array of new structures to start habits afresh.

As for the aid currently divvied out by the U.S. and EU to the corrupt PA: From the very start of the Bermigo Plan, almost all aid to the PA would cease. The two Palestinian governments, the PA and Hamas, would receive only enough for the bare-bones salaries of government officials and absolute necessities. And the new, single Palestine government (which would be elected two years into the Bermigo Plan) would only fill its coffers once income taxes started coming in from the working public.

[Yes, Hamas would get a stipend too; if the Bermigo polls show wall-to-wall support from the Palestinian public for this venture, Hamas won’t dare oppose it – in which case Hamas’ status will be automatically upgraded in the West as always happens when any terror group embraces a Western initiative. Much more on this in subsequent articles].

There are several other major prongs in the Bermigo Plan for eliminating corruption, not least the plan’s provisions for Western on-site – but out of sight – monitoring of Palestine’s law enforcement agencies. But that’s an important aspect that deserves its own discussion, if not a number of papers. As will become apparent, the design of the Bermigo venture is the culmination of years of research, and this blog will try to present its wide and varied facets in succinct ‘installments’. In that spirit, this article has focused on just one aspect of combating corruption – the ‘multiple benefit’ idea – which drew its initial inspiration from the lauded 1948 Marshall Plan.