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Corruption Perception Index 2009

gcc-cpi-ranking-2003-09

As far as Bahrain is concerned, the trend of this index is lacklustre, trending downward from 27 with a score of a 6.1 in 2003 to 46 this year with a score of 5.1. Regionally, we rank right in the middle at the moment being 4th behind Qatar, ranking 22 in the world – with a best score of the region of 7.0, the UAE which ranks 30th with 6.5 and Oman at 39 with a score of 5.5. Saudi Arabia and Kuwait bring up the rear with 63 (4.3) and 66 (4.1) respectively.

gcc-cpi

Although some might scoff at this as “it’s simply a perception of corruption, the methodologies used are worthy of much consideration. It’s clear that we have some work to do, and the only way we can actually do it is to not slap corrupt persons on the wrist and let them by, but get them to rot in jail for a while so that they understand the damage they have done to the country and its citizens.

We have many corruption cases in the judicial pipelines; from ALBA through to the latest news pieces of corrupt Tourism Department officials accepting bribes to turn a blind eye to nefarious practices in hotels and other “entertainment” venues, passing through to that bank manager who helped himself to a Lexus for a Dinar (US$2.65) and helped himself to a few hundred thousand dinars in the process too. The joke is, though, although he has been convicted and is supposed to spend some time in the slammer, a doctor’s certificate and undoubtedly some influence allowed him to stay at home due to his delicate health state.

The very same treatment was given to a 58-person killer. This worthy citizen has even been advertising environmentally friendly transport solutions while “convalescing”! How very touching.

The solution to these problems is simple of course: just apply the law. We probably have some of the best laws in the world, but that does not transcend them simply being on paper and never be implemented into reality.

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The Feds are on it now…

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And a minister has been named as allegedly implicated in the two billion US$ corruption case while in charge of ALBA over a period of 15 years or so.

This is highly intriguing and I’ll tell you why:

Although this is not the first corruption case in Bahrain, and I would venture to say that it won’t be the last either; but for decades we’ve known of corrupt government officials so much so that people didn’t bother calling them by their given names, but by an acquired alias: “Mr. 5%”, “Mr. 10%”, “Mr. 50%” and “Mr. Did They Do the Needful”.

Corruption has become the norm. Businessmen are said to actually factor in the funds they need to pay to oil the wheels of industry as a normal cost of doing business. It is no wonder that Bahrain’s reputation is less than stellar in the world community. It is this particular fact that chased and continues to chase foreign investment much more than the weekly nuisance skirmishes we too have gotten used to. Not that I condone those brain-sparks who think that they can resolve our problems by lighting fires to rubbish bins and throwing blazing tyres in the path of oncoming cars.

So what’s new in the ALBA corruption case then?

To me, it is the planting of the stake in the ground not only such a public manner, but loudly announcing that no one is going to be beyond the law – even if that someone is a minister, a member of the ruling family, or both, as is in this case. It is the willingness of the “defacto-government” to go all out and lodge a case in the United States’ courts utilising their own Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

If you are wondering what is the significance of this step, then you are not alone.

To me, it is manifold but chief amongst them would fit squarely into making bold and unequivocal political statements on which the future of this country rests.

Unlike Bahrain, cases such as this one illicits the right of full discovery by the plaintiff in the States. That is, ALCOA can not only put the Bahraini dirty laundry out for all to see, but is completely within its legal rights to ask for present and past associates of those lodging the case against it for full questioning, and they won’t care much for our dear parliamentary ways of doing things; to them, Parliamentary articles 145 and 146 – had they had them – would be quite plain and straightforward: bring out not only the minister to be questioned, but his whole known and invisible bank records and every other documentary evidence and associates to be scrutinised in full public view.

This of course will unearth a lot more muck. These corrupt practices do not happen in a vacuum, they have their own support infrastructure, which – if the case is left to take its own natural course – I would not be at all surprised if this whole government comes tumbling down due to the proceedings.

And you know what? No one can just ignore this and just keep things under the lid either; well, not unless the case is withdrawn and an out of court settlement is reached, now its not just a case of corruption brought on by a foreign company against an American company, that situation has been stopped as the US Department of Justice has launched its own investigation into the matter in a criminal case against Alcoa. If my understanding is correct, the case has taken a more serious turn now that not even the Bahraini government nor ALBA can stop it.

So we’re in for a wild ride which could result in a completely different government, new faces and not only a much better CPI rating, but much more importantly, it will go a long way into restoring the normal Bahraini citizen’s trust in his country and the new, young, fearless and vibrant leadership which is taking the bull by the horns.

This case has far more reaching repercussions than even the Bandargate scandal. This one promises a much more intensive overhaul to the machinery, and its about time too.

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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.

Transparency International logo

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.

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Renewed official stance on corruption

Corruption

Like everyone else in Bahrain, I was thrilled to read our Crown Prince’s unequivocal statement that corruption will no longer be condoned and that even if a minister was implicated in corruption, he or she will get their just desert.

I also remembered that our parliament has discussed this issue and the committee tasked with formulating that new law has rendered its decision1 to approve a parliamentary discussion of this law. I hope that with the Crown Prince’s push, that law will see the light during the forthcoming new term.

This re-enforced political will is wonderful to behold especially in view of the accelerating corruption cases brought against various managers in government-owned companies like ALBA, Gulf Air and most recently ASRY. I hope at the very least these people being brought to justice will at least get those corrupt officials to sit up and feel a bit embarrassed and take their thieving hands out of the cookie jar for a while at least. One would hope that this new political will will also force them to refill those jars from whatever that had stuck to their nimble fingers.

Unfortunately however, these kind of promises have been heard before but never sufficiently followed up; or at least if they have been followed up no conviction was been meted out to the corrupt. On the contrary, in some cases, people implicated in corrupt activities were actually promoted, as we have most recently witnessed in someone who was implicated in the infamous Bandargate fiasco.

Cases like the Housing Bank, GOSI and others are still fresh in people’s minds. So calls like these – with all due respect – need to really be followed up and convictions of the corrupt be levied in order for this political will to have some legitimacy and for it to regain its credibility.

Let me remind you that corruption is not only monetary, but other forms do exist as well which must be taken care of. In Bahrain for instance, the financial corruption might not exceed other forms of corruption like nepotism, patronage, influence peddling, avoiding the law, etc. However, corruption is no longer just restricted to these traditional arenas, it is more completely defined as:

Corruption obtains when an official transfers a benefit to an individual who may or may not be entitled to the benefit, in exchange for an illegal payment (the bribe). By taking the bribe, the official breaks a legally binding promise he gave to his ‘principal’ (usually the state administration or a private company) to allocate the benefit to those entitled to it. Corruption is neither a property of a social system or an institution, nor a trait of an individual’s character, but rather an illegal exchange. Nowadays scholars have abandoned the classic view of corruption as the degradation of an individual’s ethical sense, or lack of moral integrity. If corruption is a type of exchange it can, at least in principle, be the subject of empirical, cross-country examination. For data, scholars turn mainly to three sources, the German-based NGO Transparency International; the World Bank, and, to a lesser extent, Freedom House. These agencies all produce large cross-national surveys and ranking of countries, although the data come with a variety of biases. Naturally, illegality makes it hard to measure corruption.

Which brings me to the last few years’ CPI rating for Bahrain which has degraded appreciably. One only hopes that with the affirmation and bluntness of the Crown Prince this time, that things will really get moving in the right direction. Finally.

If I may suggest a few small thing to aid in inculcating the culture of anti-corruption: create a provision in law to protect whistle-blowers, cancel that heinous Press and Publications Law 47/2002 to allow news reports to out corruption and its benefactors and let’s see some sentences handed down against high-profile corrupt public employees and appropriate their misbegotten wealth. I am sure that should these things be enacted, our CPI rating will most certainly rise. Much more importantly of course, Bahrain’s credibility both national and international will be much enhanced, and people’s lives here will be bettered.

Now what’s the Anti Corruption Hotline number again?

[1] pdf document in Arabic

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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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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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    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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