THE decline in Kuwait’s ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index appeared as a surprising scandal that no one knew about. Ironically, it seems that officials in the country were unaware of the issue which, in reality, has been the topic on the streets for years; in fact, for decades.
It seems the warnings issued about this decline were meant for another country, not Kuwait. It also appears that the reports of the State Audit Bureau did not reach the concerned officials in the country.
This is due to the fact that such reports are thrown into the forgotten bin after milking a significant layer of the members of government through violations mentioned in those reports. The core of problems remains unsolved and no one is held accountable.
Some countries are less wealthy and more populated than Kuwait. These countries went through real crisis — including Rwanda, a country in Africa which went through one of the worst civil wars two decades ago.
However, Rwanda occupies a higher ranking in the corruption index today such that police and army officers are dismissed for being suspected of corruption.
Rwanda has since transformed into an investment destination for business persons who find their wealth, lives and investments more secured there than any other country in the African continent.
The difference between us and Singapore is not big in terms of resources and population. That country usually records an average rate of transparency annually, while it attracts investment capitals and more wealth for its citizens. All these are possible due to the well-established virtues in all spheres of its institutions.
Unfortunately, the situation is completely different in Kuwait. After the country guaranteed comfortable standard of living for all citizens, it did not imbibe a sense of duty and responsibility, especially after the liberation. The slogan reigning in the lips and tongues of everybody is: “My share of the common wealth.”
In the past three decades, the major lesson learned from the Iraqi invasion is that the best protection for Kuwait is by building strong and transparent institutions, because basic strength lies in the ability to face dangers. Unluckily, the opposite is the case here. Many Kuwaitis regard the country as a bazaar for the smartest that is able to cut the largest part of the cake illegitimately.
This is happening at a time majority of lawmakers, who are in charge of legislation and monitoring in the National Assembly, are raising anti-graft slogans, yet they are the ones striking behind the scene. The incessant parliamentary bombardments that exposed series of scandals are the best instances of corruption.
The same thing goes for successive governments which succumbed to parliamentary blackmail. Grilling, questioning and voting for or against a no-confidence motion have price tags. Everything is done by milking public funds.
On the other hand, we have many institutions tasked to combat corruption. We have a large number of laws on protecting public money, but these laws are often violated. Furthermore, it seems these laws were enforced in order to be violated, not for the sake of State reform and transparency.
Observers of our conditions can see the ‘wonders’. Overseas treatment is used for electoral purposes as a number of present and former MPs purchased loyalty through this service. The same can be said about education and even the roads. We have not seen any other country repaving roads yearly due to flying pebbles which are crystal clear evidence of corruption.
By the way, I remembered the proposal filed by the MPs in the Parliament of Switzerland last year – to grant monthly salary for each citizen. About 95 percent of the people, mostly employees and laborers, voted against the bill as they considered it a call for laziness and squandering of public money. This happens in a country which is considered the richest in the world, simply because people are aware of the importance of protecting public money.
In light of that incident, we inquire about the solution in our case. The urgent solution lies in putting an end to favoritism and nepotism; in addition to refraining from being submissive to parliamentary blackmail and setting free the State’s executive system from cowardice and shivering hands in terms of accountability.
This goal will not be achieved unless the virtue of respecting public money, which is the citizens’ property, is developed. Hence, whoever steals public money, steals from his pocket. In case the current condition remains the same, we shall soon compete with Somalia and Iraq in landing at the bottom of indices due to the failure of the State to combat corruption.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah – Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times