Corruption Index slips again

CPI comparison table from 2005 - 2007

When the crown prince announced that we must eradicate corruption in our country, he couldn’t have timed it better.

I don’t know whether the thing that prompted both him and the prime minister to reiterate their intention to correct this situation is due to them receiving advance copies of the 2007 CPI Report or they were genuinely alarmed at the depth of corruption uncovered which gave rise to accelerating corruption cases brought against various companies in which the government has a stake in, but I am happy enough to give them the benefit of the doubt in that they did notice the money being bled from public funds and made the required political decision to staunch that flow.

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Political decision alone is of course not going to resolve this down-ward spiral. What would help is primarily reforming of the judicial system and separate it completely from the executive – practically as well as constitutionally – and remove influence peddling and interference to subvert the course of justice. That is in general as far as corruption cases are concerned, but specifically competent courts and arbitration panels should also be enacted under the same criteria to adjudicate business cases expeditiously. Business cases have been known to go on for years if not decades. This of course gives comfort to corrupt individuals and practices. Who of us don’t remember the various corruption cases through the past few years?

Countries with a significant worsening in perceived levels of corruption in 2007 include Austria, Bahrain, Belize, Bhutan, Jordan, Laos, Macao, Malta, Mauritius, Oman, Papua New Guinea and Thailand.

The most important factor in winning against corruption of course is the presence of social justice and good governance, both of which are somewhat rather lacking, and this latest CPI report is symptomatic of this condition and should act as a clear warning that intrinsic changes must be enacted to bring the country back to a correct and sustainable path in which every Bahraini takes ownership in Bahrain’s future.

This is an alarming situation we are living in. It gave rise to the dangerous down-ward spiral we have entered with corruption; Bahrain – one might say – has become “حارة كل من إيدو إلو” (taking the law into one’s own hands / acting with impunity) – in the great words of Duraid Lahham.

How do we rise above this then?

Establish social justice and good governance. No one, no one, should be above the law. A simple formula that requires quite a lot of sacrifices from the leadership much more than it would from the common man. It means loosening the control strings and believing in Bahrainis. It means learning to genuinely trust each other. It means the eradication of sectarianism in every form it takes. It means the equal distribution of wealth. It means recognising flaws and genuinely fixing them.

Glossing over these issues and just using that tired adage that “we are one family” just won’t cut it any more. Action on the ground is needed, otherwise I can guarantee that the 2008 ranking will be even worse. Even staying still is not an option any more, others will continue to overhaul us as some already have.

How about starting with an honest and complete change of the cabinet rather than just reshuffling it? It is plainly obvious that real new capable persons be either appointed or elected into all of those positions with complete disregard to tribalism and sectarianism should be sought. Positions which should be answerable to parliament to ensure that should financial or administrative corruption be discovered, it is effectively and severely dealt with.

We have good men and women throughout our society who could shoulder these burdens, why not give them a chance to do so?

Once again, reports like this should not be discouraging. They are providing us with mirrors through which we can plainly see ourselves. What we do with that image is completely up to us.

  • mishmish
    27 September 2007

    How do you actually measure corruption?

    Is it not, by its very nature, a rather shady activity?

    I think this all also has to start, like so many things, with education – start from small.

    In the whole of the Gulf, even with the smallest things it’s so often all about ‘wasta’ and as long as this kind of thinking pervades, of course once one gets to higher levels, it is no wonder that full scale corruption blossoms.

    Sometimes you can look at a company and almost everyone’s playing the game, albeit on differnent levels and scales.

    I think what you’ve written is great, Mahmood. But I wonder how long it would take for that kind of spirit, transparency, fairness,equality and distribution to blossom.

    Still, it is good that it’s at least starting somewhere and being made public.
    that’s initially the only way, name, shame and punish. But not just a few scapegoats.

    It should be 0 Tolerance….

    Let’s see…..

  • mahmood
    27 September 2007

    How do you actually measure corruption?

    This is the Corruption Perception Index. Their methodology is to ask trusted members of the local community and businessmen/professionals how they perceive corruption is in the country.

    More on their methodologies on their website.

    And I agree, Zero tolerance is the way to go and I would start with the big fish, at least one to make an example of. That’s what they did in Qatar, a shaikh was implicated and imprisoned.

  • Mohammed Issa
    28 September 2007

    “Bahrain, 3rd in transparency list in the Arab region” AlAyam newspaper

    Now, That’s what i call excellent news coverage!

  • Mohammed Issa
    28 September 2007

    Somehow this site is eating my posts 😕

    Bahrain 3rd in Trancperency list! in the Arab world… “Al-Ayam Newspaper”
    Excellent way to put it…

  • Astro
    28 September 2007

    Like world peace, we all wish for an end to corruption. In practice, it will always be with us – like war. In democratic societies, they call it “pork-barrel” or “entitlements” (sorry I know its Ramadan and therefore not kosher to say such things…) and organise it in a much better way: benefits are spread to a large group. In less developed countries, the benefits are restricted to a small group and hence the disgruntled majority feel let down by corruption. In any case, it’s bad for business and social order because it makes life a lot more complex and unpredictable. The root cause in Bahrain’s case – as in most countries – is not a lack of ethics or transparency but simply too much state involvement in the economy. That doesn’t hold back growth, but it does redirect the flow of resources in favour of those who control the permits, licences and vetos: what the Indians like to call the “licence raj” who continue to hold back Indian private investment.

    Solution? Privatise, liberalise, and make sure the bureaucrats, politicos and state apparatchiks get their grubby hands off the economy. Of course, that is hardly going to be popular with those whose sole rationale for getting elected or appointed is to appropriate other people’s money. Plus, they can hide behind the convenient argument of “promoting social justice and welfare” when – as in the case of Iran’s bonyads, France’s unions, America’s congress, Russia’s bureaucrats, and our dear own officials – it is simply Animal Farm all over again.

    Remember: two legs good, four legs bad. And turkeys never vote for Xmas

  • mishmish
    28 September 2007

    I don’t know if in Bahrain it is only a government matter. Of course it is, but Bahrain, as most Gulf societies the whole ‘wasta’ thinking is intrinsic – and to me that is where it starts, if you can’t progress without having some sort of connection somewhere to someone, whom you then have to do some sort of favour sometime.

    Well, let’s see how it goes. I think it is already very interesting to hear about GF and Alba. In the ‘olden days’, this would have never happened at these kind of companies, auditors coming in and people being pulled up.

    Hopefully it is enough to make people sit up and change their ways. Often, if the system allows it, if the cookie jar is left open and everyone helps themselves by default it all goes on and on. Why not, everyone’s doing it.

    But if a new course of ethics and governance is set, and enforced, hopefully a turnaround is not too utopian.

  • I
    28 September 2007

    With all this ‘transparency’ it would be interesting to note that some major construction contracts are going to foreign companies who have put in higher bids than national companies. This begs the question ‘why’?
    In a case I recently heard of, though can not name names for safety reasons, a Chinese (or was it Korean) company with absolutely no requirements for Bahrainisation and with a bid of 2.4 million more than a Bahraini company which is totally compliant with the local rules and regulations was awarded the contract for , I believe, part of a flyover.
    This reminds me of when Hyundai first came to Bahrain in the 70’s. The brought absolutely everything they needed with them and contributed nothing to the local community. From labourers to the food they ate and the equipment they used. All imported. This seems to be happening again. The Chinese/Korean contractors will import everything and not use anything locally.
    How does this look for Bahraini construction companies who have toed the line consistently over the years, putting up with unfair and often unusable demands only to have the contracts awarded to outsiders.

    I think we should be informed of how these contracts are awarded. . . Is it a case of ‘Bombay polio’ or backhanders :0( we should be told.

  • Sara
    28 September 2007

    The big fish all the way down to the little fish should be publicly named when corruption is uncovered. By doing so, the public will demand answers and eventually lead to fair and transparent punishment according to the crime.

    I think the public humiliation would be the worse punishment of all and hopefully put some fear into others!

  • Astro
    28 September 2007

    Sara’s comment about big and small fish is interesting. Why? Because all fish rot from the head down: you don’t get low-level corruption unless those at the top of the food chain are also feasting. Need to keep the head fresh and clean….

    Like I said 4 legs good, 2 legs bad: and in Animal Farm they co-opted the chickens by telling them that “wings count as legs, so don’t worry. Join the bandwagon”.

  • Maenad
    30 September 2007

    If you are creating lovely graphs to assist you in making your point, perhaps you should check them a tad more throughly before posting to avoid confusion. I’m fairly sure the third column in your table should have been labeled 2007 not 2006 again.

  • mahmood
    30 September 2007

    Thanks Maenad, I’ve fixed it now.

Religious Police pepper-sprayed!