Gross National Mismanagement |
Kuwait Times - 12 July, 2012
Author: Fouad Al-Obaid
What does a sovereign breach of contract - the K-Dow Deal; a crumbling newly erected national stadium - Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium – unable to serve its purpose due to its poorly constructed structural nature; a national airline - Kuwait Airways - forced to ground several of its aging fleet of aircrafts, posting a collective loss standing at a staggering $ 2.7 billion; a national mosque – Masjid Al-Kabeer – that risks collapsing on the believers heads due to recently discovered cracks, have in common?
They are all state projects that are a clear testimony of the ongoing rampant corruption.
Alternatively, we could view them as shocking examples of gross mismanagement. These are not the only projects or institutions that are suffering from poor decision-making, they nevertheless are the tip of an ever growing iceberg. The old mentality that seems prevalent in Kuwait is if it is not ‘literally’ broken, do not bother fixing it. In the case of Jaber Stadium, let us build it so poorly that once it’s complete it would serve as a reminder to all of our desolate incompetence!
People keep complaining in Kuwait that things are not as good as they ought to be. With a projected twelfth year of budgetary surplus, one is led to wonder what good it is to have money and yet be unable to do anything meaningful with it! Countries are arduously working on developing their national infrastructure, investing in education by inviting world-renowned universities to set shop, earnestly believing in the implementation of a knowledge economy. Globally acclaimed is their ability to not only develop their countries in a record breaking time-schedule – I am thinking of Doha, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, all started developing long after Kuwait. Regardless, here we are with a growing pool of educated and talented individuals who see their educational efforts and skills slowly withering away. The reality is that for much of them without a ‘wasta’ they will never get employed one day. Even if they do, they land up in meaningless, repetitive jobs. Who is to be blamed?
‘Wasta,’ a word any person living in Kuwait needs to come across sooner rather than later. It is a word we all use, but rarely do we give it the proper definition it requires: Corruption: Corruption is what the term ‘wasta’ really comes to means, it is the illegal use of influence through connections to get work done that ought to be done by state employees regardless! The culture of favors that we believe is ascribed to our close social interactions with family and peers is. This is at the essences of our inability to set ourselves free of this mentality that is at the core of our current predicament. Not willing to consider the fact that ‘wasta’ grants people permits without proper inspection; it is what gets poor students good grades; reckless employees with promotions, and the list goes on.
What is tragic is the pathetic need to develop a secondary system that goes against the very principles of the modern civil state in which each citizen is equal before the law. It is equally responsible before the law. The given ‘wasta’ system is what will ensure that hierarchical responsibility is overseen when dealing with employees that know senior civil servants. It will ensure that mistakes are made at all State institutions. It is the cancer that will eventually bring down this country of ours should we not place it under check, sooner than later. We will see that as the national population is growing, and with a job market in need to absorb the ever growing numbers of graduates that the ‘wasta’ concept can only go really far in promoting incompetence.
When the tipping point comes – and it will come – the tragedy will be asked by a population who believes that religion asks of us a high degree of integrity is void. Perhaps this article is a highlight of pertinent Islamic references and it should be pointed out. As a dear professor once taught me, “once you know something no longer can you deny it, you can only choose to ignore it.”
“O ye who believe! Do not squander one another’s wealth in vanities, but let there be amongst you traffic and trade by mutual good will.” – The Holy Quran, 4:29
“Woe to those who give short measure, who demand of other people full measure for themselves, but give less than they should when it is they who weigh or measure for others! Do these people not realize that they will be raised up on a Mighty Day, a Day when everyone will stand before the Lord of the Worlds? “- The Holy Quran, 83:1-4
“God commands you [people] to return things entrusted to you to their rightful owners, and if you judge between people, to do so with justice.” -The Holy Quran, 4:58
“O you who believe! Fulfill your obligations.” – The Holy Quran, 5:1
“And spend of your substance in the cause of God. And make not your own hands contribute to (your) destruction; But do good; for God loves those who do good.” – The Holy Quran, 2: 195
May the aforementioned verse act as a reminder to those that profess a faith in Islam and yet decide to contradict public moral, ethics, and their very integrity in search for short-term gains. Philosophy and spirituality aside, let us endeavor together to lay the solid foundations of a moral, ethical, and just society; one that we would pride ourselves to be a member of. Corruption starts at the individual level, let us all strive to perfect our very selves, and to act as counters to corruption by shouldering our collective responsibility to ourselves and peers.
By Fouad Al-Obaid