الصفحة الرئيسية | السيرة الذاتية مراجعات أعمال د. الصويان الأعمال المنشورة | الصحراء العربية: شعرها وثقافتها | أساطير ومرويات شفهية من الجزيرة العربية
 الثقافة التقليدية مقالات صحفية في الأدب الشفهي مقالات صحفية بالعربية محاضرات عامة معرض صور تسجيلات صوتية موسيقى تقليدية
ديواني
| كتب في الموروث الشعبي مخطوطات الشعر النبطي أعمال قيد النشر لقاء تلفزيوني مع محطة العربية مواقع ذات علاقة العنوان

Home | Curriculum Vita | Reviews | Publications | Arabian Desert Poetry | Legends & Oral Narratives  
Traditional Culture
|
Articles on Oral Literature | Articles in SaudiDebate | Public Lectures |  Photo Gallery | Sound Recordings
Traditional Music
| Anthology | Folklore Books | Manuscripts | Work in Progress | TV Interview | Relevent Links | Contact


THE SAUDI COUNCIL OF MINISTERS
DECLARES WAR ON CORRUPTION

The Saudi Council of Ministers in its regular session, which convened on Monday Feb. 19, approved the draft of a proposal submitted by the Ministry of Interior entitled National Strategy for the Promotion of Honesty and the Combating of Corruption. The proposal was initially put forward by the Shura Council. The Council of Ministers recommended the establishment of a national committee for this purpose to be called The National Committee for the Promotion of Honesty and the Combating of Corruption. Among the tasks of this committee is to devise ways and means of putting this new strategy into practice and to follow up and monitor its implementation and evaluate the results. All government agencies were urged to speed up and improve their services in compliance with this new direction of government reform.

This new strategy comes as part and parcel of the reform package initiated by king Abdullah. It is also part of the recent effort by the kingdom to encourage foreign investments and to improve the competitive edge of local economy in preparation for full membership in World Trade Organization. The strategy is meant to promote public interests and protect national wealth and public property and eradicate many bureaucratic flaws, which have become wide spread in all branches of the government and public sector. These include inefficiency, tardiness, backlogging, negligence, kickbacks, nepotism, abuse and misuse of power, illicit dealings and favoritism in offering government contracts, and so on. It was pointed out that no official, no matter how high his rank is, will be immune from inquiry. This is an indication of the seriousness of the government in taking this step. It is reported that the chairman of this new committee will be given the rank of minister and will report directly to the king. Some local websites have already started nominating their favorites for this position, including Prince Talal b. Abdulaziz and Dr. Ghazi al-Gusaybi

The whole week last week, the strategy was debated and commented on in the press and on TV. Reactions to it ranged from welcome to dismissal, depending on whether the discussion is in private or in public, whether the person is using his real name or pseudo name and whether he is a Saudi or an outsider, an immigrant calling from a safe haven somewhere in Europe.

Some Saudis expressed optimism and faith in the kings plans for reform, seeing this new strategy as another forward step towards modernization and improvement of the governments performance and services. The very fact of admitting that we do have corruption, which we need to combat, is a good sign in itself. This is a big first step towards correcting the situation. Others, however, pointed out that this strategy is not the first of its kind. They cited other decrees, which were issued previously but remained ink on paper, including one during the reign of King Saud and another one during the reign of King Faisal. These and other similar decrees did not leave any lasting and meaningful effect. Critics also pointed out that there are already in existence several agencies, which are supposed to insure good performance and curb corruption and bribery, like The Commission for Government Supervision and Inquiry, Department of Public Supervision, Department for the Combating of Bribery, and Department for the Combating of Commercial Fraud. Some of these departments have been in existence for decades, yet they did not do much in combating the ills they were supposed to eradicate.

This shows, according to some commentators, that real meaningful reform cannot come piecemeal or through the issuance of government decrees. Due to the structural and functional interconnectedness of the various parts and components of society, only a wholistic approach and an overhaul of government institutions could be effective and lasting. To eradicate corruption you need to eliminate conditions conducive to it. For example, no one would like to pay bribes but sometimes people are forced to pay to get the job done. Not too many people are willing to conduct their affairs virtuously if every body around them, especially the higher ups who should be the models to follow, is taking the short cut to serve their own narrow self- interests.

Furthermore, there is a real concern among some commentators that a national strategy to combat corruption could only mean more complicated bureaucratic red tape that would harm small businesses and hinder public interest, while for big fish the situation would remain business as usual.

On a more sarcastic note, some ask, who would watch the watchdogs! There is an inherent structural flaw here. The committee is a government agency, which is supposed to watch over government performance and check the infractions of its various branches. In other words, it is the government watching the government. This is like the wrongdoer trying and judging himself. Without the separation of powers, the legislative, the executive and the judicial, and without the existence of independent civil institutions, such a committee would have no claws or teeth and, thus, would be of little effect, just like, for example, the Saudi Human Rights Commission, which is a government agency supposed to watch over government abuses of human rights! Despite good intentions and good well, effective means of checks and balances depend on the separation of powers and the existence of thriving agencies of civil society, not to mention party politics.

Since members of the National Committee for Combating Corruption as well as the judges in the court of law are all employed by the government, you obviously have no impartiality. In such a situation, very few people would dare risk blowing the whistle. The general feeling is that bureaucratic reform would remain ineffective if not undertaken within the context of comprehensive political and judicial reforms. Many Saudis, especially in the commercial and business sectors, entertain the feeling that their judicial system is lagging way behind the requirements of modern times. According to some, tardiness of judicial procedures and lack of due process are the main reasons responsible for the retardation of economic development and social progress in the kingdom.

While people in business and real estate are pressing for judicial reform, the intelligentsia is calling for academic freedom and freedom of speech, along with freedom of choice. Predominance of unitarian ideology and practice in politics and religion cloud the vision and stifle the mind and, when you are faced with problems, rule out the possibility of choosing the best solutions from various alternatives. Broad mindedness, mental agility ad logical thinking are prerequisites for survival in our complex fast moving modern world.

If you happen to watch a live show on TV on any topic related to Saudi Arabia with people calling to interject their comments and opinions, you will be surprised by the negative views many people hold on the kingdom. This was brought to my attention while I was watching a talk show on the subject of this article, the Promotion of Honesty and the Combating of Corruption. Practically 95% of Arab callers thought the kingdom was beyond repair. Of course, these opinions are mostly remnants of cold war period between various Arab countries and the propaganda machines of the hard line followers of Baath party, the communists and the Naserites. Yet, the fact remains that Saudi Arabia needs to launch a serious campaign to improve its image and, at the same time, to embark on serious reform program to promote its standing and prestige in the Arab World.  Actually, this goes for all wealthy Gulf States, which, despite their material progress and visible development, are still labeled by most other Arabs as reactionary, medievalist and tribal.

Saudi Arabia, in particular, needs to work hard to change these perceptions if it were to carry successfully and effectively its new found role as power broker and peace maker in the region. We should take a lesson from Egypt, which, despite its overpopulation and poverty and despite its receding role in regional politics in recent decades, still occupies a leading position in the Arab World due to its thriving arts, flourishing press and relatively developed academic and cultural institutions.

Free press and freedom of speech would be the most powerful, most visible and most convincing message Saudi Arabia could convey to the outside to prove that real positive change is taking place. Besides, free press and freedom of speech, coupled with fair and speedy court procedures, would be the most effective means to combat corruption.
 

 







  

<<Previous   |  All Articles  |  Next>>