“Al-Wala’a, la al-Kafa’a” is useless [Archives:2004/793/Viewpoint]

November 25 2004

Based on my observation and experience it seems to me that the way Arab regimes appoint and empower the people around them is the main reason behind the repressiveness and backwardness in Arab countries.
“Al-Wala'a, la al-Kafa'a” is the Arabic phrase that explains the way that Arab regimes manage their countries. It is literally translated “Loyalty not qualifications.” This implies that Arab regimes think that the ones who are eligible to run the country's affairs need to be loyal rather than qualified. In other words, what is important for the regime is to ensure that every decision-maker hired will first obey the regime's commands and be totally loyal to it before he or she could be appointed.
This has limited the chances that any minister, or high ranking official could raise his/her voice to his president and disagree with the president's way of thinking or orders, even if they believe their orders to be wrong.
Meanwhile, those who have an honest attitude who cannot compliment the wrong doings of their president would be neglected or punished for such behavior.
Yet it is impossible for any country to develop unless the president is aware of the need to give preference to qualified and honest people over those puppets who fear their president's anger more than they fear for the people or the country.
On the other hand, one should not expect a lot from officials who continuously look for ways to please their boss rather than help the country develop and prosper.
Here is an opportunity to point out to some newly appointed officials who have slowly started to break this rule.
For example, the new governor of Aden Dr. Yahya Al-Shuaibi has demonstrated that the budget he receives for the governorate is now more wisely used to focus on the priorities of the city rather than paying tens of millions of Yemeni rials of the budget to publish congratulatory messages to greet the president for Eid or other national occasions.
Al-Shuaibi can greet the president with a fax or a cable message. There is no need to spend millions of rials just for the sake of showing the world that he greeted the president.
I remember the time when I visited Iraq before the war in 2003. I noticed how poverty was evident in every street and every lane of the city and also realized the increasing number of beggars everywhere. Yet at the same time, golden statues would be built to glorify the president then, Saddam Hussein, in an attempt to show their loyalty and respect to his person, even if that meant spending millions of US dollars from the public budget to let the president know how much they admire him.
I believe that the era for such beliefs and acts is now over, and if there is a better way forward, then it would be to focus more on the country and people's interest. Arab officials need to know that they work for a whole country and not for a boss who appointed them.
But in order for this change to occur, the mentality of “Al-Wala'a, la al-Kafa'a” needs to change for good in the minds of our leaders. When will ever start realizing the hopelessness in this phrase?