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Getting to the crux of the problem

Feb 20,2018 - Last updated at Feb 20,2018

Prime Minister Hani Mulki survived on Sunday a motion of no-confidence in the Lower House, albeit by a small margin, with 67 deputies voting for him and 49 deputies against.

There were eight abstentions and some deputies did not even bother to attend the parliamentary session, convened especially for this very purpose. Yet, a win is a win as the prime minister emerged jubilant and triumphant from the test of his rate of approval in the Parliament.

Mulki's opponents claimed that their motion of no-confidence in him was submitted allegedly because of "his inability to address the current challenges and the tax burdens he has put on citizens".

The first thing Mulki did after his win was announced was that he intends to salvage the economy "away from populism". He also declared that the "government will move ahead with its decisions and will not procrastinate, because he is not seeking popularity".

The premier is, of course, right when he said that national policies must not always be determined based on popularism, because popular judgements could all be wrong and would lead the country to disasters. Yet, by the same token, not all popular opinions are necessarily wrong.

This is where statesmanship comes in, by sifting popular ideas that are wrong from those which could be right. This is also where unpopular correct decisions need to be better explained and justified in order to render them more acceptable by the public.

The whole issue boils down to how coherent and effective the explanations are of policies that may appear untenable on the surface, but correct and defensible on closer look.

Mulki's government was forced to adopt certain tax policies that many people found unjustified at a time when the announced draconian measures were, in fact, defensible.

The crux of the problem, therefore, lies in the proposition that these unpopular policies may not have been properly or sufficiently explained or justified. It is, therefore, a communication problem that the government, any government, may have to reckon with more closely.

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