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Cleaning the ‘stairs’

Ahmad Al-Sarraf
The Tanzanian President John Magufuli is considered one of the biggest enemies of corruption.

On the first day he was elected about two years ago, Magufuli took firm actions against corrupt employees. When he made a random visit to the Civil Service Council, he issued strict penalties against employees who were absent. He cancelled lavish celebrations and reduced the budget for official banquets. He banned overseas state-sponsored travel for all state officials except the president, vice-president and prime minister.

He made surprise visits to hospitals and terminated those who were responsible for their bad conditions. He visited the main port where he closely observed several severe tax violations, responding by sending the head of the port to jail.

The Tanzanian president dismissed tens of thousands of employees who were involved in corruption including the president of the anti-corruption body, president of the tax authority and a senior official. He reduced the number of assistant undersecretaries for each minister. He threatened any minister who failed to cooperate with the anti-corruption committee. He put an end to the trend of holding official meetings in hotels. He reduced the number of diplomatic delegations overseas as well as the benefits offered to them.

Let us imagine what will happen if the Prime Minister of Kuwait started following the steps of the Tanzanian president. From where will he start and how will he confront corruption?

In my opinion, there is not a single department or institute in the entire world that is completely devoid of corruption. However, the problem is not about the existence of corruption, but the degree of corruption and the will to confront it.

Those who have been following the situation in Kuwait will be shocked by its low rate in the indicators of integrity. Such a fact is incomprehensible, especially since the number of Kuwaiti citizens is about one and half million, and the modern administration of the State of Kuwait began just 150 years ago.

Furthermore, Kuwait is not a poor country and has no political issues or sectarian struggles. Kuwait is not like India or Egypt where administrative and financial situations are complicated, and corruption has been prevalent for centuries. On the contrary, Kuwait is supposed to be a model state where reform procedures should be easy to carry out.

I can understand the situation of the Indian prime minister or the Egyptian prime minister or even the Lebanese prime minister in terms of dealing with corruption. However, I cannot find any justification for the hesitation and inability of the Kuwaiti government to confront corruption, especially when the places where corruption is widespread are known, and its tools are obvious.

Why then aren’t we seeing any positive action being taken to tackle that beast which is gobbling up the entire country? The situation in Kuwait has reached such a state that no transaction can be completed without paying some bribes.

There is an African saying — “Corruption is just like stairs. To clean them, you have to start from the top”.

Therefore, as long as the government is unwilling or unable to confront corruption, it is impossible to find a good solution to this problem.

How can we expect the government to confront corruption while one of its ministers squandered more than $2 billion in less than one year by sending tens of thousands of citizens for overseas treatment when 90 percent of them were not patients?

Yes, it is true that the minister was dismissed and he was referred to the Ministers’ Court; but this was not because of the squandering of millions, as the Cabinet and the National Assembly had also played a part in the squandering of that amount. Considering that, the minister might be considered innocent.

Note: In an attempt to improve the image of the present Minister of Health, his spokesman said the number of people sent overseas for treatment this year is less than that of last year. This is being considered as one of the achievements of the current minister.


By Ahmed Al-Sarraf

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