Conflict and Cooperation, Middle East Crises
Amir Bagherpour | Jun 2016

Garbage Crisis in Lebanon

Identifying a Solution to Government Gridlock in Lebanon


giStrat forecasted the next six months of the garbage crisis in Lebanon.

Analysts defined the future according to (1) the allocation of waste disposal contracts and (2) the degree of centralization of the garbage collection process.

We examined these two dimensions and forecasted the following:

  • The Lebanese government will agree to a non-competitive bid process.
  • This process will favor contracts for central authorities, with business primarily going to Sukleen.
  • The government will award a very limited number of contracts to alternative companies under decentralized municipalities.



The Lebanese government has failed to dispose of millions of tons of waste, leading to mass protests that aggravate tensions between the government and public. The Lebanese government’s failure to provide a reliable garbage collection service is the result of bad planning and disagreement over allocation of lucrative, non-transparent waste disposal contracts. The influx of over one million Syrian refugees exacerbates the government’s inability to provide basic services and increases public unrest.

giStrat applied agent-based simulations and statistical modeling to game out the future of the garbage crisis in Lebanon and to ultimately find a realistic resolution given the constraints of Lebanese politics.

We predict that Lebanon will allocate contracts primarily to central authorities in a non-transparent bid process contracted primarily to the Sukleen waste management company.

A Resilient Society in the Face of Government Dysfunction

Lebanon is a small country of approximately five million people situated between Syria and Israel. The Taif Agreement (1990) reached toward the end of Lebanon’s fifteen-year civil war (1975-1991) established a government principle of mutual co-existence between Sunni Muslims, Maronite Christians, and Shia Muslims. The Lebanese constitution mandates that representation in the Parliament be evenly split between Christians and Muslims, and it divides the top positions in government along religious lines with a Maronite Christian President, a Shia Speaker of the Parliament, and a Sunni Prime Minister. Although this power sharing agreement has helped avert another civil war, it has also created a highly dysfunctional government that often fails to reach the compromises needed to operate effectively. Despite this governmental dysfunction, Lebanon has seen modest economic recovery following the civil war.

The Ongoing Garbage Crisis and Other Problems

The most recent example of Lebanese government dysfunction is the ongoing garbage crisis. Millions of tons of waste have stacked up without any proper disposal. This has contributed to heavy pollution of air, land, and water. The garbage crisis has also exposed the intricate system of bribes, kickbacks, and backroom dealings among the country’s rulers, leading to a series of mass protests beginning in 2015 and continuing into 2016.

giStrat’s forecast on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) ranked Lebanon 9th in risk of conflict out of the 18 countries in the region. The country has several structural characteristics that pose some significant risk, including a religiously fractionalized society as indicated by a government divided between Sunni, Shia, and Maronite officials. In fact, this dysfunctional government has failed to elect a President in the last two years. Lebanon also has the fastest growing population in the Middle East when taking into account the influx of over one million Syrian refugees, placing further strain on the state’s ability to provide security and services.

A Fight Over Who Gets the Waste Disposal Contract

At the heart of the garbage crisis is a debate about whether the government will award a contract to Sukleen, the company responsible for transporting the garbage, or seek a decentralized and transparent bidding process that allows other companies to compete for the contract. Our analysis indicates that Lebanese government officials including Prime Minister Tammam Salam, the Ministers of Environment and Health, and the Chehayeb Commission (led by Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb) favor mostly centralized contracts with some going to municipalities and alternative companies. The government leaders clearly prefer non-transparent bids. This has led to an outcry from the Lebanese public and demands for a more transparent process by civil society leaders and clergy from Sunni, Shia, and Maronite communities.


Predicted Solution: A Non-Competitive Bid Process That Centralizes Trash Incineration

We estimate a 65% likelihood that the Lebanese government will agree to a non-competitive bid process that favors contracts for central authorities, with business primarily going to Sukleen. The government will award a very limited number of contracts to alternative companies under decentralized municipalities. The Joumblatt and Hariri-led groups will likely reach a final agreement that includes no garbage sorting (recycling), only trash incineration, and a high degree of centralization.

Allocation of Contracts

Both Lebanese government and international actors will converge on an agreement aligned with a non-competitive and non-transparent bid process. Because there are fewer companies that provide these services, the market and bid process favors contracts for central authorities. Few contracts will go to municipalities, meaning the profits from these public services will be concentrated primarily in the hands of Sukleen and actors that negotiate side-deals along the way. Statistical simulations indicate a 65% likelihood of the outcome described above.

Landscape of Future Positions on the Allocation of Contracts (3 to 6 months)


Degree of Centralization

Key government figures will reach a consensus that favors no garbage sorting, trash incineration, and a high degree of centralization. Simulations indicate the key decision-makers will likely agree to a deal in which there is no sorting and dumpsters are centralized. By applying a series of statistical tests, we simulated uncertainty and variability in the behavior of the stakeholders across forty alternative futures. These tests demonstrated a high degree of confidence in our forecast.

Landscape of Future Positions on the Degree of Centralization (3 to 6 months)



giStrat conducted this forecast using a validated agent-based game theory model called Senturion. Senturion incorporates computational analytics with behavioral theories from the fields of psychology, political science, and microeconomics to anticipate political outcomes. Our analysts have utilized Senturion for more than 450 projects for Department of Defense and the Intelligence community with an 85% accuracy rate and 200-plus projects at the State Department with over a 90% accuracy rate. In modeling stakeholder preferences, the simulation assumed that stakeholder bargaining is a function of an actor or group’s position on a particular issue. Our analysts also calculated the weight actors attach to each issue and the actors’ relative influence.



Amir Bagherpour, PhD, Chief Political Scientist
Benjamin Marcus, Copyeditor
Alaina Johnson, Visual Designer
Professor Carole Rizkallah Alshabarati, Saint Joseph University
Professor Jacek Kugler, Claremont Graduate University


Download the report here.

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