Never-ending bureaucracies [Archives:2005/884/Viewpoint]

October 10 2005

One of the diseases that developing countries – Arab countries in particular – have in common, is an agonizing bureaucracy. How many times have you experienced waiting in a long queue to process your paper work, while governmental employees are chatting with each other and sipping their morning tea?

How many times have you tried to have an employee hurry up in signing the papers as you still have plenty of other work to do, and see this employ looking over the papers of another file and laughing with his fellow employee and eventually tells you, “I guess you will have to come tomorrow?”

Some Arab countries have developed an extremely slow habit of piling files, delaying the work of others, and taking citizens for granted.

Once upon a time, I noticed an old man going to the cashier of a private bank and rightfully asking to withdraw an amount from his account. But during the whole process, he would pray for the cashier and say “May God protect you, may God help you as you helped me. Thank you my son, I am so grateful and so on. This was happening as the cashier was busy doing some other stuff and didn't even look into the old man's face. In fact, the more the old man pleaded, the more the employee expressed arrogance and kept on doing other things. Until I then told the cashier, why don't you do your work and look into the old man's request? Then the man said, “OK, I'm coming. Who are you to talk any way?” I was shocked at the behavior of this employee but I realized that our private business sector still has a very long way to teach employees how to be friendly towards customers and speed up their processes.

I thought to myself, if this is happening in a private enterprise, how would things be in the government?

Indeed, the Arab world in particular still has to take many steps to rid itself of bureaucracy that kills potential. Investors need facilities and quick responses to establish businesses. People who can contribute positively to the development of the Arab world should be given a priority by relaxing bureaucracy that prevents them from working in an atmosphere conducive to the creation of ideas and initiatives.

If there is one thing that we need to focus on to develop our countries, it should be developing a respect for the value of time and commitment. It is unfortunate that on many occasions, officials do not value time of their own, but also the time of those who deal with them. This consequently leads to inefficient utilization of energies and skills. Again, this has a negative impact on the overall productivity of Arab nations justifying the low ranks of our countries in various issues such as contribution to global culture, politics, and science.

The developed world is now speeding up processes in government and private circles. You may have noticed the e-government services in Singapore or the express immigration entry in airports using biometrics and smart card solutions.

By such actions, they aim to enable their individuals and establishments to do more work in a shorter time. This is a recipe for success because hard work, efficiently and the proper utilization of time is the essence of prosperity and progress.

Will our countries understand what they are doing wrong in this respect?

I hope so!