Dr Samir Rihani

The Curate’s Egg

I decided to publish this website for a number of reasons, explained elsewhere. However, at the top of my list was my desire to describe and assess events and actions as they are appear to me unaffected by ‘pear reviews’, publishers requirements, and other extraneous inhibitions. If my offerings appear a little trenchant then so be it. Needless to say I always try to be objective.

Dr Samir RihaniA number of issues have influenced my thinking, but the emerging ‘science’ of complexity has occupied a large portion of my focus in recent years. Complexity, like the curate’s egg, is good in parts. It is a new field that is full of promise as well as pitfalls. I have read many excellent publications on the subject. But sadly I have also read a lot of trash.

At worst complexity could be the latest fad. At best it could be the basis for a new approach in the way social, political, and economic events are researched and managed. For my part, I strongly believe that complex systems offer a promising avenue to explore. Certainly the results that have emerged so far from the natural and life sciences give grounds for optimism. But I also accept that too many people have jumped on the bandwagon in recent years; some more convincing than others. For this reason I thought that a few words about myself might be helpful.

Eclectic Past


I was born in Baghdad. At eighteen I came to Britain to attend university, returned to the Middle East to work for several years, and then came back to settle in Britain. My contacts with the Middle East were never severed, however, and in practice I consider both the Middle East and Britain as ‘home’. It is necessary to underline this point as it has enabled me, I believe, to take the baggage that comes with both backgrounds with a pinch of salt. On the other hand, each background offered benefits that helped me to acquire a wider viewpoint on events and personalities.


My eclectic past extends to my academic and professional qualifications and experience. I am a chartered civil engineer, a transportation planner, a chartered marketing specialist and, later in life, I was awarded a doctorate in development studies.

A False Beginning

After obtaining my first postgraduate degree from the University of Liverpool, I worked for three years in the Middle East as a development engineer, university lecturer, and consultant.

I returned to England in 1967 and started a period in planning and development, exclusively in local government. Use of computerised transportation models was in vogue at the time. Planners dreamt up ideas for the future and the modellers came back with a precise picture of what would happen twenty-five years later if the wish list were turned into action. It was unheard of, and practically impossible, to challenge the computer printouts; they were taken as gospel. I encountered the same faith in the power of ‘science’ as I steadily mounted the ladder of seniority. The aura of order, predictability, and control over long-term events was intoxicating. Development was seen as a finite and tidy process that obeyed known universal laws. Some countries are already ‘developed’, and others are still ‘developing’. The traditional concept of development is as simple, and laughable, as that!

A Change of Course

Needless to say, events hardly ever kept faith with forecasts. This little difficulty does not trouble the ‘experts’ normally. They move on after a few years and start the same process all over again someplace else. However, I remained in the same area and soon concluded that there was something seriously amiss in the way planning and development were pursued. When the opportunity arose in 1977 to work in the real world of passenger transport I jumped at the chance.

I occupied the position of Director of Service Planning and Co-ordination at the Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive until 1986. That organisation controlled directly and indirectly the entire passenger transport system in Liverpool and its sub-region; including buses, trains, and ferries.

The nature of the work in passenger transport was in sharp contrast to that involved in my previous employment. Planning changed from being a theoretical exercise to a practical activity that had immediate and measurable consequences. Changes to services and fare levels had to be agreed with the operators, negotiated with trade unions, debated in committees and public meetings and then implemented and then assessed. I was supposedly still involved in planning but everything else was different. The inadequacy of the methods and assumptions I took for granted in the past was exposed. Certainty had to be jettisoned in favour of probability and risk assessment. Rigid large-scale planning was out and experimentation and evolutionary change were in. Continuous monitoring coupled with flexibility and fine-tuning were the only sensible styles of management under these conditions.

My work changed and my methods and assumptions changed with it, but I was not yet aware of why things were radically different. Because revenues and passenger numbers were easily measurable, the consequences of planning were readily obvious. To survive in the new environment I had to adopt a new stance and fast. Although I felt a sense of unease previously, I doubt if I would have altered course without these powerful incentives. Appreciation that the systems we were dealing with were nonlinear came about years later.

Another Step on the Way

In 1986 I took another step away from order and predictability when I became the chief executive for the newly created Merseyside Tourism Board. MTB was set up ostensibly to promote Liverpool and its sub-region as a visitor destination, but the ultimate aim was to attract economic investment to the area. Social, political and economic issues came to the fore and, inevitably, assumptions about certainty and predictability had to be revised downwards yet again. Giving up was not an option. The task had to be managed but the way forward clearly demanded a high degree of variety and flexibility backed by good monitoring systems and a willingness to change course and to try something new. Above all else, it was obvious that management by dictates from the centre would be counterproductive. Best results were achieved when hundreds of local players; hoteliers, shop owners, companies, travel agents, etc. were allowed to innovate and interact within a clear overall policy and funding framework that commanded general acceptance.

The Final Shift in Perspective

The authorities on Merseyside made a number of positive changes in 1992 to the way the area was to be promoted. MTB as an ad-hoc private-public partnership lost much of its purpose as a result. I decided to move on with two aims in mind: to concentrate on human and economic development and to take stock of the experiences I have accumulated up to that point to gain a better understanding of the factors that shape social, political and economic events.

I embarked on research into systems theories taking development as my main topic for analysis. In time the research came to absorb most of my time but the rewards were more than adequate. I discovered the rich field of complex systems and my work on development was recognised by the University of Liverpool when I was awarded a PhD in 1999. I was also invited to be a Research Fellow at the School of Politics, University of Liverpool.

The insights that I gained into the behaviour of complex systems have helped me to better understand processes and activities in other fields in addition to international development. That certainly was the case in relation to my work on the Board of the Liverpool Women’s Hospital where I served as a non-executive from 1994 to the end of 2001. I then served as a non-executive director on the Board of the South Liverpool PCT (Primary Care Trust). The PCT was created as part of the radical restructuring of the National Health Service in Britain. The focus of PCTs is on local action and leadership by frontline staff. After amalgamation of three PCTs into one PCT for the whole of Liverpool I was asked to join the board again as a non executive director. I remained in that post until November 2013 when I left following yet another shakeup of the English National Health Service.

Current Activity

National and international development, public policy, and the international political economy remain my main occupations. I have maintained my link with the University of Liverpool where I serve as a Research Fellow in the Department of Politics. This link is invaluable as a means to keeping my knowledge fresh and up to date. The challenge of keeping up with other academics, and certainly students, is most stimulating. As described below I regularly attend, and speak at, international conferences.

I wrote a book on Complex Systems Theory and Development Practice that was published by Zed Books in September 2002. I also collaborated with Professor Robert Geyer, Lancaster University, on a book on Complexity and Public Policy that was published by Routledge in 2010.

Academic Qualifications




Bachelor of Engineering (Honours)

Civil Engineering

University of Liverpool

Master of Engineering


University of Liverpool

Doctor of Philosophy

Economic and Human Development

University of Liverpool






November 1963 – February 1964

G. Shankland Associates, Architects and Planners, London


March 1964 – August 1965

Municipality of Baghdad, Iraq


September 1965 – February 1967

Department of Architecture and Town Planning, Baghdad University, Iraq


September 1965 – February 1967

Yawer and Associates, Architects and Engineers, Iraq

Group Leader

February 1967 – March1972

City Planning Department, Liverpool City Council, UK

Head of Transportation Section

March 1972—January 1974

City Planning Department, City Council, Liverpool, UK

Director, Joint Transportation Unit (JTU)

February 1974 – February 1977

Merseyside County Council, Liverpool, UK

Director of Service Planning and Co-ordination

March 1977 – September 1986

Merseyside Passenger Transport Executive (MPTE), UK

Chief Executive and member of the Board

October 1986 – November 1992

Merseyside Tourism Board (MTB), Liverpool, UK.

Managing Director

December 1992 – January 2001

EPHOR Consultants Ltd, Liverpool, UK

Non-Executive Director

October 1994 – December 2001

Liverpool Women’s Hospital NHS Trust, Liverpool, UK. Also Chairman of Audit Committee

Non-Executive Director

February 2002 – September 2006

South Liverpool Primary Care Trust (NHS), UK. Deputy Chairman, Chairman of Audit Committee and Chairman of Joint Risk Management Committee

Non-Executive Director

October 2006 – November 2013

Liverpool Primary Care Trust (NHS), UK. Chairman of Integrated Governance Committee

Incidental lectures on health management Centre for Public Health

2002 – 2005

Liverpool John Moore’s University

Research Fellow, Lectures on human and economic development and International Political Economy to third year and postgraduate students

November 2000 – 2014

Department of Politics, University of Liverpool

Academic and Professional Activities




Location or Publisher

November 1963

MSc Thesis

Studies of Traffic Stream Characteristics

University of Liverpool

March 1974


Operational Planning in Developing Countries

Faculty of Engineering and Architecture; American University of Beirut, Lebanon

April 1975

Paper to International Conference

Public Transport and People, New approaches to the Planning Process


July 1975

Paper to PTRC annual conference

The Implementation of Transport Policies and Programmes

University of Warwick, UK

February 1976


Transport Planning and Programming in Merseyside

Bradford University, UK

March 1976

Paper to Meeting of Scottish Regional Authorities

Operational Planning and Resource Allocation

Edinburgh, UK

March 1977

Paper to Association of Metropolitan Authorities Transportation Conference

Resource Planning in Merseyside

Liverpool, UK

May 1977

Paper to Institution of Civil Engineers Conference

Value for Money in the Allocation of Resources

Gwent, UK

November 1977

Lecture to Public Transport Society

Future of Transport Planning

University of Liverpool, UK

November 1977

Paper to Chartered Institute of Transport

Land Use Planning in the Context of Public Transport Planning

Preston, UK

January 1979

Paper to Chartered Institute of Transport

Policies Into Practice

Birmingham, UK

February 1979

Lecture to overseas students at the Birmingham Institute of Local Government Studies

Rationalisation, Management and Control of Public Transport Services

University of Liverpool, UK

April 1979

Paper to Chartered Institute of Transport

Merseyrail: Planning and Implementation

Leeds, UK

June 1979

Paper to Conference Europanne Des Ministres Des Transports Round Table No 47

Scope for Railway Development in Urban Areas: Merseyside a Case Study

Hamburg, Germany

February 1981

Review Symposium

Inner City in Context

University of Liverpool, UK

March 1981

Paper to Conference on Public Transport

Marketing Public Transport

Newcastle University, UK

September 1981

Lecture to British Transport Staff College

Planning a New Public Transport Network

Woking, UK

October 1981

Visit to USA to research transport for disabled persons

Award from Leverhulme Foundation

Various locations in the USA

September 1982

Paper to Association of Metropolitan Authorities Transportation Conference

Future of Local Rail Systems

Manchester, UK

November 1982

Paper to Transport and Road Research Laboratory

Merseyrail Impact Study

Glasgow, UK

February 1984

Paper to Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy

Cost Benefit Analysis and its Applications

London, UK

March 1984

Lecture at School of Advanced Urban Studies

Public Transport in Metropolitan Areas

Bristol University, UK

April 1984

Paper to National Conference of Community Transport Operators

Integration and Coordination of Services for Disabled Persons

Newcastle, UK

April 1985

Paper to Bus and Coach Council Conference

The 1985 Transport Bill and Its Implications for Metropolitan Areas

Manchester, UK

September 1987

Lecture at Civic Design Department

Tourism: Flagship for Merseyside

University of Liverpool, UK

March 1989

Paper to Scottish Association of Tourist Officers

Merseyside Tourism Board: a New Breed of Tourism Organisation

Dunblane, UK

June 1989

Paper to 7th European Leisure and Recreation Association Congress

The Role of Leisure and Tourism in the Process of Revitalisation

Rotterdam, Holland

June 1989

Paper to Planning Transport Research Company (PTRC) Conference

Enterprise in the North West: Marketing an Urban Destination

Manchester, UK

April 1991

Paper toChartered Institute of Transport

Tourism and Transport: Partners in Success

Liverpool, UK

May 1992

Talk to The Tourism Society (Consultants Group)

Tourism and Economic Development

Liverpool, UK

January 1993

Talk to the English Speaking Union

Economic Development and the Future of Jobs

Liverpool, UK

September 1993

Talk to University of the Third Age

Economic Development in the World Today

Wirral, UK

May 1993-May 1994

Monthly column on political economic topics

Liverpool Daily Post

Liverpool, UK


Part time research on complex systems

School of Politics and Communications

University of Liverpool, UK

June 1999

PhD Thesis completed and accepted

Complexity in the Development Process

University of Liverpool, UK

April 2000

Joint paper with Dr Geyer to Political Science Association Conference

Complexity Theory and the Fundamental Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century

London School of Economics, UK

March 2001

Paper in Progress in Development Studies volume 1, no.3,2001,

Complexity: An Appropriate Framework for Development?


March 2002

Paper in Progress in Development Studies volume 2, no.2, 2002

Implications of Adopting a Complexity Framework for Development


August 2002


Complex Systems Theory and Development Practice

Zed Books, UK

2003 to 2005

Lectures at Centre for Public Health,

Complex Systems Theory and Health

Liverpool John Moores University, Uk

April 2003

Paper to World Conference on Dialogue Among Civilisations,

Development as a Complex Adaptive System

UNESCO, Warsaw, Poland

August 2003

Presentation to Feasta and Worldwide Democracy Network

Exploring a whole systems approach to sustainability


October 2004

Paper to Salford PTC and NHS University

What Can Complexity Thinking Tell Us About The NHS?

Manchester, UK

September 2005

Paper to Complexity and Science International Conference

Complexity and Politics

University of Liverpool, UK


Paper to Complexity and Science International Conference

NHS: Anarchy or Perfection?

University of Liverpool, UK

June 2006

Paper to 3rd International Conference on Complexity and Health Innovation and Research

English National Health Service

Bilbao, Spain

February 2007

Presentation at Seminar

Mission in Their Madness

Lancaster University, UK

July 2008

Paper to 3rd Conference of International Association of Contemporary Iraqi Studies

A Complex Systems View of America’s Misadventure in Iraq

SAOS, London, UK

May 2009

Paper to Conference on Globalisation and Welfare Sustainable Solutions

Nations as Networks of Interlinked Processes

Templeton Green College, Oxford, UK

June 2009

Presentation to Cost of War Conference

The War on Iraq

Liverpool Hope University, UK

September 2009

Paper to ESF workshop on Complexity and NHS Reorganisation

Can Complexity Improve European Health Policy?

Lancaster University, UK

November 2009

Presentation to workshop on complexity

Complex Systems

Lancaster University, UK

December 2009

Two presentations to 3 day Conference on Sustainable Development Indicators

Nation as Complex Adaptive Systems

Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Egypt


June 2010

Presentation to Workshop on Complexity and Health

Complexity and the NHS

LSE, London, UK


Sept 2012                  


November 2012


Complexity and Public    Policy. (Co-authored)                                                        

Paper to AMEPPA 1st Conference on Public Policy in ME




An Accord for MENA

Ilfrane, Morocco

January 2013

Published paper in The Innovation Journal 18(1), 2013, qrticle5

Middle East Countries in suspended animation

International Journal

May 2013

New Middle East Conference

MENA’s Future: Revolution or Evolution?

University of Liverpool, UK

November 2013

Paper to AMEPPA 2nd Conference on Public Policy

Nations as CAS: Mix of Order and Chaos

Atilim University, Ankara, Turkey


January 2015      Public Administration        Chapter: “Iraq’s               Publishers: Springer                
                           and Policy in the Middle    Revolutionary Cul-de-sacs 
                           East.                                 sacs”

Sept. 2016         Eradicating Terrorism         Chapter: ” Terrorism         Publisher: Springer 
                          from the Middle East         Through the Looking

Currently:           Researching and writing book on “Leaders at Large” as a working title.