CORRUPTION: Our Worst Headache [Archives:2001/25/Focus]

June 18 2001
Silver Lining
By Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
Corruption is defined as the misuse of public power, office or authority for private benefit through bribery, extortion, influence, peddling, nepotism, fraud, or embezzlement.
In most countries corruption is a criminal offense. But the real crime is to torture the poor and vulnerable, including women, who can not afford to pay bribes even for the bare necessities and whose share in economic wealth is already scant. Corruption also damages economies, the environment and, in developing countries, can slow development because it diverts resources and discourages international aid and foreign and domestic investment. In extreme cases, law and order can fall apart as rules and regulations fail to be enforced. Crime, violence and social unrest can potentially follow.
The question of corruption is the major headache of the Yemeni society. In fact, it is an epidemic devouring everything that might lead to the development of this country. It has generated a lot of problems for Yemen. This is because corruption denies the poor their share. It has increased poverty, bred injustice and violated human rights. It has also caused political discontentment and social unrest. It has diverted resources, reduced income from tax and customs fees, increased the cost of contracts, lowered quality, disturbed policies, reduced investment and subverted companies and NGOs. In short, corruption damages the economy and can even reverse development.
Corruption in its various forms has taken its toll of the development of the Yemeni society. We can unfailingly notice that bribery, nepotism, favoritism, mediation, looting of the public wealth ..etc. plague all the potentialities of development in the country. Moreover, these evils have become a daily routine for the majority in the Yemeni society. One feels that s/he can not get employed or have any other goal fulfilled unless one of the aforementioned necessary evils are applied. Visiting the public offices, one gets staggered by the perverted situation in these institutions. Bribery takes various names in Yemen like “Haq bin Hady or Haq Al-Qat (bribe) or whatever else. What is more unfortunate is the fact that most of the public servants in Yemen are corrupt and only a few are honest. These honest guys are even accused of being foolish and persons lacking alert minds and manliness. So, in such a chaotic situation in the absence of accountability, we find that some people become wealthy overnight having fashionable cars and villas.
The Central Department of Control and Auditing issues, every now and then, reports in which it records the misuse of the public wealth. Such instances reached 66 during only the first half of last year. entailing the loss of a staggering YR 5 billion. What a pity!
From time to time such cases of waste and looting of the public treasury are brought to the public attention Unfortunately, in the absence of accountability and a fair and independent judiciary, cases of corruption escalate constantly and the corrupt become free riders. They are never held accountable. Rather, they get promoted because they are protected by people at the power center and decision-making core. They have reached the extremes of wasting public wealth and grabbing very big chunks of land, mainly in Aden.
The government of Yemen in collaboration with the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund embarked on the policy of the economic and administrative reform in 1995. Its implementation created a big fuss and affected the Yemeni people considerably. However, since that date the situation has been deteriorating gradually; poverty and unemployment have soared dramatically. I should say that the Yemeni people will tolerate the harsh outcomes of the program as long as it pays off. But because corruption is eating everything, the reforms seem to have failed to show any tangible outcome.
The anti-corruption campaign as stated by the President Saleh and PM Abdulqader Bajamal is a good omen. It shows that they are aware of the hazards of corruption on development. This new blood in them, moreover, shows the necessity for change to salvage the country. I do believe that the corrupt and crooked officials at the decision-making core will be affected by the change considerably. Therefore, they will try to nip this effort by the President and the PM in the bud. They will not let them do it.
Therefore, to ensure the success of this endeavor, the President should start his campaign against corruption by expelling the corrupt cronies around him. He should get rid of these rotten apples and replace them by honest people who are willing to back him up in his effort. The PM told me when I interviewed him recently that his government will not have confrontations with the crooked officials. His means of fighting corruption will be putting honest people at the right positions. This is a good step if it is effectively implemented. Yemen is full of such people who are willing to breathe a new life into society. They have their own ideas that can positively contribute to push the wheel of progress ahead. It is only by this way that corruption could be controlled. The price of such effort will, of course, cost a lot and it is fraught with many challenges and hazards as well. However, it will have good and positive outcomes. President Saleh and Prime Minister Bajamal can do it and I am sure that all the Yemeni people will support them wholeheartedly. Otherwise, if the corrupt lobby continues unabated their efforts will come to no avail and crooked people will be out of control.