Tag Archives corruption

CPI 2006 released… and the indication is not good

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We’re floundering around the same position we were classified at for 3 or 4 years as far as ranking is concerned, but the actual score is edging southward this year:

CPI index 2005 and 2006

To go back in history a bit: in 2003 we scored a respectable 6.1, in 2004 that went down to 5.8, ranking 34, last year we slipped to 36 with a score of 5.8 again, and this year 5.7 while retaining our world-wide ranking.

The EDB has one heck of job on its hands, at least to staunch the bleeding for now and so does the whole government. Because without correcting this situation and increasing our CPI score in the immediate future, we can probably forget about development, foreign direct investment, reducing unemployment, and all the other tenets of a good economy. Which reminds me, a parliament with a good sense of economy and objective and scientific management goals would help tremendously, in fact it will be the major factor in correcting this situation.

Of course if they repeat the previous parliament’s “achievements” (Ninja driving, allowing the military and the police to grow their beards, Nancy Ajram banning, Gatherings Law, Press & Publications Law, Terrorism Law, reductions in personal freedoms and freedoms of speech, etc.) then we shouldn’t really care about these metrics, as we will need a hell of a lot more than that to get out of the hole we dug for ourselves, if we are ever to do that, that is.

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Transparency International 2005 Corruption Index published

Once again Bahrain stays the same, at an index of 5.8 is not that bad, but not that good either. While Qatar, the Emirates, and Kuwait making positive strides when compared to last year, and Oman surging ahead to grab pole with Israel as the least corrupt countries in the region.

Here are the actual rankings for the whole world, and here’s a pdf for this region:

Staying static is certainly no progress.

Having said that, this year has seen quite a number of business initiatives and recently a flurry of IPOs, so hopefully that will bolster the businessmen’s view of Bahrain for next year’s charts.

In the mean time, MPs, the government and the tenders board have to not only work extra hard to ensure that our index does not drop but actually exert a herculean effort to lessen and the amount of corruption we suffer from here.

It is the full responsibility of the MPs to question corrupt public officials and throw them out of office. We have had the fiasco of GOSI, the Housing Bank and the various things unearthed during the discussion of the 2005/6 budget, but we still await the trial for a single corrupt official.

As importantly MPs have access to the report by the government’s transparency office which pointed fingers squarely at areas and persons needing investigation but they didn’t do anything to bring corrupt officials to book. It is a fact that our MPs continue in their peaceful slumber and continue shirk their responsibilities for which they were elected.

hat tip to Dr. Abdulhadi Khalaf.

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Above the law

What’s the future like for our children in Bahrain when 95% of the land are in private hands. How did a country as tiny as Bahrain end up in a situation where a few individuals own the vast majority of the land mass? How did that happen?

How it happened is quite well known to us Bahrainis who have heard horror stories since we were toddlers of some “higher ups” touring the country in a pickup truck with a few Indians at the back and rolls of barbed wire. When that person spies a parcel of land which takes his fancy, he instructs the his Indians to hop off and start surrounding that plot of barbed wire.

There are also the other stories of another one of those higher ups colloquially called Mr. 3 bricks, because he’s a bit more advanced than the pickup guy where he builds a three brick high fence around the plots he “takes.”

This is mostly how Bahrain was divided into an almost medieval landscape; large plots of land which have been apportioned unfairly, then goes through some sort of sectioning and offered up for sale, hence the seller – who doesn’t legally own that land in the first place – becomes upwards of tens of millions of Dinars richer. And off they move to another “unclaimed” land.

How else did Tubli Bay get raped? It was at some point over 25 square kilometers of the most fertile fish and prawn grounds. Now its filled with sewage AND its reduced in size to between 11 – 13 square kilometers, and other than supporting a few stray flamingos, I doubt that any other fish than the hardiest (and uneatable) could survive there. How did it reduce in size though? The same “technique” as the ones described above. This time however, they dredge, fill-in, section and sell. Disregarding the hundreds of families’ livelihood gained from fishing, or the rich environment of that area.

And they move on.

A few weeks ago, the press reported that one of the “big hamours*” had sold THE SEA to the North of the main island, an area of several tens of kilometers to private investors. The figure gained? The rumour has it pegged at upwards of US$ TWO BILLION.

Is it then strange that we see another “up and coming hamour” trying a fast one on Malkiya’s coast? One that doesn’t give a shit about direct and repeated orders from the municipality and the ministry to stop building a wall that would cut off a whole village from the sea on which they depend for their daily lives and entertainment?

The wall being built in spite of clear laws and government warnings

The wall being built in spite of clear laws and government warnings

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Party Shuffle

In the continuing Winds of Change series in Bahrain, it seems that there’s going to be a limited ministerial change and ministries restructuring to be announced today or tomorrow. This is good.

But don’t hold your breath for the ancients to leave, the Foreign Affairs, and Defense will stay as is, and no, the premier ain’t goin’ no where either.

People who are reportedly to be booted are:

1. Abdulla Saif, the minister of finance and national economy, and the chief negotiator of the FTA is to be fired. This is the most surprising change to me. This move might be completely to appease our friends the Saudis. Now that they claimed their victim and got the pound of flesh, I hope they’ll now move on (and give us back those 50k barrels, please? pretty pretty please?)

2. Nabeel Al-Hamar, the ultimate survivor whom everybody suspected to be booted out on several previous occasions, is once again in the reports that he’ll be fired. But mark my words, he’ll land a very cushy job nevertheless. This guy will just not disappear! They are also reports in two Arabic dailies (Al-Wasat and Al-Ayam) that the Ministry of Information is going to be broken up into corporations, or amalgamated into the Ministry of Youth and Sports on a temporary basis until it is completely disbanded.

3. Abdulnabi Al-Sho’ala is shown the door. Wouldn’t it have been much better if parliament opened the door for this guy and shoved him out of it instead? Hey who am I kidding… Let’s see if they (the parliament) do anything to try to return the BD44 MILLION ($116.7m) referred to in the Transparency report as “missing” from the Housing Bank.

4. Mohammed Al-Muttawa is out. He’s probably going to be re-assigned as the Bahraini Ambassador to France. Can’t we open an embassy in the Antarctic or something? The weather there is quite amenable to freezing lips shut thus hindering speech, but with all the hot air, that might not work very well…

5. Shaikh Essa bin Ali Al-Khalifa, minister of oil is out. Can we ask for him to be frisked before he leaves? Body search? No matter. He’s been there for yonks and he’s reportedly going to be booted, and his ministry is going to be amalgamated with the ministry of power and water. So the next time we get a blackout, with both Alba and Bapco falling under the new ministry, there won’t be much excuses for screwups… or will they once again get creative?

Our friend Majeed Al-Alawi will continue to be a minister (huh?) but his current Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs is going to be split up into the Ministry of Labour and a new Ministry of Social Affairs. He’s going to keep the former, while the latter is reportedly going to the 2nd woman minister: Dr. Fatima Al-Balooshi who is a Dean in the University of Bahrain.

In the shuffle, the Minister of Justice will be rotated, to be replaced by Mohammed Al-Sitri who is the current Municipalities minister. The current minister of justice is reportedly going to be assigned as one of four vice-premiers. The first time ever that this position which was recently enacted anyway, will be occupied by a Shi’a. Learning? I hope so.

My suggestions to the government (parliament, hello, are you awake? sit up and listen:)

1. Ensure that every new minister declares their personal wealth as a condition of accepting the job.
2. Ensure that they don’t hold any Commercial Registrations.
3. Ensure that they don’t have any direct or indirect business interest.
4. Audit the outgoing ministers, and don’t be afraid to ask “Where did you get this from and how?” type of questions.

Of course the GDN doesn’t know (or need to know) any of this!

We’ll hear all of these confirmed or denied in the next few days…

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Another benchmark goes south

RSF published their annual report again, and unfortunately Bahrain’s ranking on press freedom dropped yet again.

And it’s a downward spiral at a rate of knots:

  • 2002: raked 67
  • 2003: ranked 117
  • 2004: ranked 143!
  • Why? Was it that the people polled to rank Bahrain are increasingly pessimistic on the outlook of press freedoms in Bahrain? Where they much more optimistic in 2002 and now they have completely given up? As far as I know there were no changes over the past three years as far as laws are concerned.

    A law that would really liberalise the media and increase press freedoms proposed by Ibrahim Bashmi of the Shura Council is still stagnating in the government waiting for approval but probably won’t see the light of day any time soon.

    The elected councilors on the other hand are falling over each other trying to bring out more restrictive laws, be those laws about personal freedoms, the right to demonstrate and congregate, the abolition of political parties or the introduction of shari’a laws.

    This is the second index this year that has clobbered us. First it was the lower ranking given by Transparency International on the Corruption Index, and now this.

    How far are we to descend before we all just give up? How long do we have to hang our heads in shame? How long do we continue to just talk about freedoms and transparency rather than do? How long will these proposed laws fester before they get enacted to release the media and press industries to do their jobs in constructive criticism?

    Or is that the plan?

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    2004 Corruption Index by Transparency International

    Here are the results for the GCC:

    Rank – Country – Rating – Trend
    29 – Oman – 6.1 – up from last year
    29 – UAE – 6.1 – up from last year
    34 – Bahrain – 5.8 – down from last year
    38 – Qatar – 5.2 – down from last year
    44 – Kuwait – 4.6 – down from last year
    71 – Saudi Arabia – 3.4 – down from last year

    I guess the passing mark is 5.0, so we’ve just scraped by along with Qatar, while Kuwait and Saudi have a hell of a struggle on their hands.

    That doesn’t mean that I or you should be proud of the rediculous rankings of the UAE and Oman. They too have a very long way to go.

    The whole area is awash with oil, but lack democracy and transparency to counter the effects of the culture of bribes.

    Read the report here.

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    Eight months’ investigation, 3 ministers questioned and the end result? They’re saints!

    What a farce. Everybody on the street knows the transgressions that ALL ministers in this country have committed. The huge amounts of money embezzled and the continuous gratuities they receive in various forms (money, land, and privileges) so much so that a minister enters the government a pauper, but leaves it a billionaire. How else would one amass such wealth in such a short time? They go in with thoughts like “I can’t afford to fix my punctured tyre” but soon thereafter they own compounds and huge tracts of land…

    So the “services committee” composed of Dr. Ali Ahmed Abdulla (Menbar), Ali Mattar (Asala), Dr. Ibrahim Al-Abdulla, Dr. Sa’adi Mohammed (Menbar), Dr. Isa Al-Mutawa (Asala), Mohammed Al-Khayat and Mohammed Khalid (Asala) have found that there are no wrongdoings to indict any minister.

    And the committee’s vote was unanimous. Give me a break.

    It’s abundantly clear that the majority of such an important committee is limited to pro-government MPs and their findings were a predetermined conclusion.

    No indictment?

    When put to the open vote in parliament only 8 MPs voted to indict Abdulla Saif, the Minister of Finance and National Economy, but you need 10 votes to indict a Minister:

    The MPs voting for indictment of the Minister of Finance were Sameer Al-Shuwaikh (as if his vote counts, this guy is himself under a felony suspended sentence!), Othman Sharif, Ahmed Hussain, Jassim Abdul A’al, Abdulhadi Marhoon, Abdulnabi Salman, Mohammed Al-Abbas, Yousif Zainal.

    Ali Mattar chickened out and abstained (by him leaving the chamber during the vote!) and he’s a member of the committee, does he know something that we don’t? Are these his “high Islamic principals” he’s harping on about forever? Or is it what’s good for the goose is NOT good for the gander?

    Eight months and this is the result?

    I can understand that under the current law, they couldn’t touch Abdulnabi Al-Sho’ala. I can understand that the new Minister of Labour Majeed Al-Alawi has got off, but Abdulla Saif is let go?

    What a farce. ALL of these jokers in parliament now should NEVER be elected again. They are very simply and generously described as morons who made an art of wasting time and posturing.

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    Corruption Perception Index 2003.. we’ve got a ways to go still

    According to the CPI, Finland was ranked as the country that has the least corrupt civil service and was given a score of 9.7 out of a perfect score of 10. Iceland, Denmark, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, the Netherlands and Switzerland were close behind. Bangladesh and Nigeria, in contrast, were found to have the highest level of corruption among the 91 countries on the list. Among the Arab countries Oman ranked highest with a score of 6.3, just below Israel at 7, followed by Bahrain (6.1), Qatar (5.6), Kuwait (5.3), UAE (5.2), Tunisia (4.9) and Jordan (4.6). Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria, Yemen and Libya followed in that order scoring below the average for the Arab countries of 3.9 out of 10.

    Daily Star :: Corruption is a serious obstacle to development in the region
    Supporting data & report: Internet Center for Corruption Research sponsored by Transaprency International

    Israel: 7
    Oman: 6.3
    Bahrain: 6.1
    Qatar: 5.6
    Kuwait: 5.3
    UAE: 5.2
    Tunisia: 4.9
    Jordan: 4.6
    Saudi Arabia: 4.5
    Egypt, Morocco, Lebanon, Algeria, Yemen and Libya < 3.9Fascinating. Bahrain scored better than the rest of the Gulf except for Oman, yet investors are turning away. why is that? And what are the recommendations for us to be even better in the future?The recommendations don't need an Einstein to discover:(1) free media unhindered by government interference. The media has a major role in exposing corruption wherever it may be. (2) The freedom to organise civil bodies like unions, political parties, and economic and cultural societies.We've failed in both. The press is encumbered by archaic laws and regulations, and the civil societies like the Human Rights organisations are being labeled unpatriotic and classified as meddlesome thus threatened by closure and expulsion.The King has demonstrated his determination to keep his reform packages going and growing. He should now concentrate on repealing at least the archaic press laws and sponsor a true national reconciliation effort and dialogue to get us out of the political quick-sand we're in.For the press laws, we should learn from the developed world, while for reconciliation we should emulate the South African experience.Come on, let's get on with it before it's too late.

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    Shenanigans

    The government these days is in a tight bind. And is being childish and belligerent to boot. Why? Three ministers were caught with their hands in the cookie jar, the parliament want to interrogate them which could result in a withdrawal of the vote of confidence (kicked out), but the government is trying to wriggle out of the situation, helped no less by the Speaker of Parliament!

    Some parliamentarians on the other hand have smelled blood and found that they like the taste too! It is their moment of glory and if they’re seen by the people that they’re doing what they were elected to do in the first place, they will continue to receive those fat salary cheques for another term including a high-class car, inflated expense accounts, and even bigger per-diems for their travels, office expenses, secretaries, etc.

    That my friends is it in a nutshell.

    The story started several months ago when the head of the General Organisation of Social Insurance said in parliament that the organisation is facing bankruptcy. All hell broke lose! This is the organisation that has been entrusted to hold and safely invest the life savings of hundreds of thousands private sector employees. Instead what happened is that it turned into a free-for-all squandering money and just “gifting” its investment to a select few, or simply writing-off investments worth millions of Bahraini Dinars in the guise of “helping the local economy.” No shit Sherlock!

    Parliament formed a committee to investigate and sure enough they found truck-loads of transgressions, vast mismanagement, daylight robberies, and tremendous government interference virtually since GOSI was started under the very (in)capable leadership of the then Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mr. Abdul-Nabi Al-Sho’ala who now is a Minister without portfolio, succeeded by the Minister of Finance and National Economy Mr. Abdulla Saif, and lastly by the current Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Mr. (I’m not opposition any more but define the term toe-the-line) Majeed Al-Alawi, who really has nothing to do with it as he was appointed very recently, so instead of washing his hands of the subject, he went on the defensive and defended his predecessors! Duh!

    So we have a situation here close to stale-mate. We had the Mps threatening interrogation, and what does the government, embodied in the Prime Minister do? Go on a very public visit of support to all three ministers in their own offices. Meaning? Threaten all you like, we don’t give a damn and we’ll stand by our ministers!

    Why?

    If you had caught a thief, what do you do? Reward him or throw his ass in jail to rot for a few years? Ok ok, this is all conjecture at the moment as all of the accused are simply that, just accused and no court of law has been involved nor the parliament to clearly apportion blame and indict these ministers. But still, logic would tell any government in the world (the real world that is) to run as far away from the accused as possible. For God’s sake, just a hint of this scandal would surely topple a government, the whole government, not just present a minister for questioning.

    But no. In our version of the world, if you’re caught with your hand deep in the cookie jar you will not only be rewarded for your onerous effort, but you will enjoy public support from the highest person in government. Go figure.

    What’s the Speaker got to do with this then? Well, Mr. Khalifa Al-Dhahrani is scared but goodness knows of what. He has tried in the past to “solve” the situation by trying to convince Mps that he can “fix” the situation by just talking nicely to the government using his own personal influence. He is “scared” that this head-to-head attitude will result in the dissolution of parliament and turning Bahrain back to where it was 30 years ago. Well Mr. Al-Dhahrani, who gives a shit? If this is what you’re afraid of, you are not the man for the job! What does this guy think? Democracy is a bed of roses? That we should protect parliament by continuing to be meek and bow to the government wishes? By “avoiding confrontation” just in case that results in the dissolution of parliament?

    What kind of parliament is this that acts in collusion with the executive branch of government? Under Al-Dhahrani’s leadership, I’m afraid that this is exactly what the parliament will/has become and I cannot wait for the next elections to vote this joker OUT.

    There are better men ready and willing to take the mantle. Your job, if you will allow me to remind you, is not to be at the government’s beck and call, yours is to ensure that your parliament oversees what the government is doing and hold it to account, it is to tell the elected Mps do their duties, but not allowing them for instance to just be municipal representatives solving people’s sewerage problems and legislating speed-bumps on roads. They are voted in parliament to be our chosen strategists and ensure the well-being and continued sustained growth of the economy, by ensuring that appointed officials in government know that there is a sword hanging over their heads at all times and they should be honest and serve the people, by ensuring that all officials in the country are aware and respect human rights, that you create and maintain an atmosphere of tolerance, by creating and encouraging new job opportunities. Not involving yourselves in municipal matters.

    So we arrive at the latest chapter in this saga. The government has officially responded that the questioning is invalid due to: (1) individual ministers have already been questioned previous sessions so they cannot be questioned again, (2) that the government has responded to everything that parliament has demanded in its report on GOSI and the Pension Fund, and lastly (3) that under law 45 of the internal parliament law Abdul-Nabi Al-Sho’ala cannot be questioned as his term as Minister of Labour was before the first session of parliament, therefore he is immune from questioning.

    My response to all of these points is that (1) no they have not been grilled yet so they should be, (2) no it didn’t, one clear demand is to censure these ministers, and (3) law 45 can be used to hide behind, but would you if you are an honest person? Wouldn’t you try to clear you name? And lastly, this is people’s money? Real people, real workers who worked all their lives to feed their families and want their pension money to live on after they retire, should that be protected at all costs?

    So what’s the government to do then? Well, there are quite a number of rumours going around at the moment that a ministerial change is imminent. This, the government hopes, will let it off the hook. But what I personally think will happen is that the ministers will just be re-assigned to other ministries. This will be a real shame because this situation is another real golden opportunity that the government should take full advantage off. What they should do is drop these three ministers completely and get others into cabinet who are more capable. If they do, it might prove that the government is actually listening to the people and are a real partner in this drive pioneered by our King for transparency. If on the other hand they don’t and just re-assign them even as ministers without portfolio, that would be a real slap in the face of parliament and the people of Bahrain.

    Either way, the ministers involved if proven guilty should be followed in civil courts to get the “missing” money back where it belongs.

    Stick’em parliament! Don’t let them get away. This is not only your golden opportunity to prove your worth, but once and for all you will shut those up who want to see you fall flat on your faces. If you don’t, the boycotters will most definitely be exonerated and their cause of boycotting the elections will be valid.

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    CONVICTED! First Bahraini MP to be handed a jail sentence

    Soon to be ex-MP Sameer Al-Shuwaikh, (the guy I voted for!) was handed a six-month suspended jail sentence yesterday for issuing a dud-cheque. For 158,000 Dinars (US$ 419k). His defence of ignorance and that “he only presented the cheque as a guarantee” were thrown out of court. You ain’t got money, don’t write cheques. Even my 10-year-old son knows that. He probably thought that becoming an MP would shelter him from prosecution, and it did for a while, but his immunity was lifted.

    So it looks like we’re going to have to elect another person to represent us quite soon in our area (Northern Governate, Constituency #3, Barbar) , and hope that this time there will be a better choice to pick from.

    C’mon Parliament, what are you waiting for, let’s have an election and see if that too is going to be boycotted! What fun!!

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