ReflectionsEmbassies should have the last word about recipient of their scholarships [Archives:2004/728/Opinion]

April 12 2004

By Yahya Al-Olfi
[email protected]

The question is always raised when it comes to scholarships conferred by embassies to Yemeni nationals, whether such embassies seek to satisfy our officials' whims or would like to create a friendly impression on the part of their respective countries towards the Yemeni people. Unfortunately what is tangible from daily experience is that the embassies opt for the satisfaction of our concerned official institutions, whether they are corrupt or straightforward. Many scholarships are offered from friendly countries to the Republic of Yemen as assistance in vocational training, various courses and academic postgraduate studies. Unfortunately, due to administrative corruption such scholarships are often destined for the wrong recipients. Ministers, Chairmen etc. often give such scholarships to those who get through due to bribery to lower administrative officers, but first and foremost they give them to those who have what we call in Arabic Wasatah or Wasitah (i.e. a mediator being a high responsible intervening mostly so as to get something unlawfully for someone who does not deserve it).
Mediators sometimes do receive money, return favors or merely show off their capabilities in front of their acquaintances in that they can give scholarships to whom they want whenever they want. Of course, Wasatah or Wasitah is used in many other domains and is not limited to this instance. Naturally, this phenomenon is existent in other Arab countries, but is not as barefaced as in Yemen.
In my opinion friendly embassies and agencies wishing to grant scholarships to Yemenis should first advertise the scholarships, receive the files and then decide for themselves, unless the embassies are obliged by their governments to offer such scholarships intentionally to individuals in control, not to normal Yemenis. As a result, instead of winning a good reputation amongst the Yemeni people, embassies disappointingly do satisfy the whims of some of our corrupt officials. I have many examples of such wrong appointments of candidates. The excuses given by an official about any given candidate should be always meticulously verified, that is if the concerned embassy does not want to be duped (unfortunately embassy staffers act in many such instances as collaborators).
A friend of mine submitted his file to the concerned Yemeni Authority (Planning Authority). He had all the documents ready and handed them to the concerned embassy. His less qualified competitor equipped with his position, which he occupied via Wasatah, or Wasitah, placed him in control of some yet unspent state funds coveted by himself and his boss prior to the end of that fiscal year. So his boss phoned directly to the embassy and told the competent officer, “Look! This is our man. He is the one fit for the scholarship. We shall not accept any person other than him”. Back at work, the minister was angry because my friend dared to deliver his candidature to the embassy, so he ordered the concerned administrators to suspend the payment of his salary and to interrogate him as if he has committed a dereliction, while in fact the wrongdoers were the minister and his said minion. The minister even threatened to imprison my friend at the tarnished jail of the Yemeni Secret Police on account of the complaint filed to the ambassador in which my friend criticized the embassy for being gullible and inefficient, in that it could not perceive what was going on. (The stupendously intelligent ambassador sent a copy of the complaint to the said Minister). When the ambassador of the concerned country was asked by the aggrieved why he chose an unqualified person, he replied we are obliged to deal with your official institutions. After a year or so, the corrupt minister moved to another office. The new minister replacing him delegated an official Yemeni administrative officer to the donor country in order to check why no more scholarships are forthcoming. There they told him your last best Yemeni candidate was unable to read or write English and so we decided to better suspend our scholarships as long as your country's candidates are of such a luminous level. The problem is that some countries do not care whether the scholarship candidates are suitable or not. Thus, unqualified candidates waste Yemen's opportunities to acquire badly needed practical knowledge and expertise. Certain higher-level administrators do distribute scholarships according to their own interests and caprices. In fact they monopolize the sumptuous ones and grant them exclusively either to their close relatives, friends, tribal kin or for private purposes.
I asked one of the individuals who is still aspiring to obtain a postgraduate scholarship to tell me his experience. He told me that when he went to a concerned Yemeni body the employee there received him gleefully and told him: “You know, as a matter of fact, one cannot get a scholarship without payment of Ibn Hadi's dues (a Yemeni euphemistic word for “bribe”, literally meaning “Son of Mr. Hadi's dues”. So the unfortunate applicant offered him US$200. Immediately came the response of the employee saying that the amount was not enough for him and that if he really wanted to get a scholarship he would have to give Mr. so- and-so US$500 etc.
Anyhow, after having paid different additional amounts it became clear to him that the individuals who overpaid or simply employed the famous Yemeni Wasatah, or Wasitah were the ultimate winners.
I should be very happy one day to notice that lawful Yemeni candidates obtain scholarships not via the payment of Ibn Hadi's dues or the employment of the famous Yemeni Wasatah or Wasitah.