After the First World War, many politicians started to talk about “homes fit for heroes”. There were some schemes, but nothing like enough was done to clear working class areas of overcrowded slums with poor sanitation, often crumbling around the families that were crammed into them.
Although Lloyd George’s government didn’t seriously follow through on its pledges, it underlines the importance of housing policy following a war. That is particularly true where a war has seen wide-scale destruction of housing stock. If a government wants the support of its citizens, then it should ensure that it takes quick steps to make sure their housing needs are taken care of.
With that in mind, today’s report on Lebanon tucked away on one column on page 27 of the Sunday Telegraph shows just how badly wrong the West is getting its Middle East policy. The report outlines how the internationally backed government rebuilding programme in Lebanon has stalled.
It appears that the Lebanese Government has been slow in setting up the rebuilding scheme and that the money has been slow in arriving. However, Hezbollah has a programme of compensation and rebuilding well underway.
It is surely uncontroversial to say that the Lebanese Government regaining control of its territory both from Israel and internal armed groups would be a good thing. However for this to happen, the government needs to be an effective and popular provider for its people’s needs.
With the scale of devastation in Lebanon, the West should fast-track the £2bn in aid to the Lebanese government and give the technical support needed to carry out the reconstruction. This is a fraction of the money that’s being spent in Iraq, but it would surely be more effectively spent in building support for a moderate government in the area and rebuilding the relative affluence that existed before Israel laid waste to the country, thereby building up a secular “good example” in the region.