Educating The Public On Corruption

Raising the public awareness on the social and economic impact of wasta, bribery and corruption patterns is a major component in efforts to fight corruption in the coming four years, officials said. Publicising the National Anti-Corruption Strategy for the years 2008-2012 on Wednesday, the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) staged a focus-group discussion of the plan, where experts also agreed that the media can play a vital role in fighting the phenomenon. The strategy highlights means to fight corruption practices and increase the efficiency of relevant anti- corruption authorities. [source]

I think most Jordanians are already aware of corruption, whether in the form of bribery or wasta. The reason many engage in such activities is because the mechanisms that allow them to get a fair shake in life are absent. They cannot guarantee getting a job based on merit or guarantee that the law will be just and fair, rather then bended at the will of bigger players. Hence wasta, hence bribery.

Anti-Corruption Commission Chief Commissioner, Abed Shakhanbeh, stated in this same article that “the strategy [to raise awareness] is designed to enhance people’s confidence in public institutions”.

The reasons corruption is prevalent on this citizenry-level is because there is no confidence in public institutions and their ability to be effective public-serving mechanisms. I agree, that in the context of time, these mechanisms have improved, but, nevertheless, people’s confidence remains low because these mechanisms are no where near the required efficiency level. Hence wasta, hence bribery.

But let me say this:

Collecting all these forms of corruption on the citizenry-level in to one giant ball, should be labeled as petty corruption. In truth, the bigger, more apparent, and more dangerous form of corruption is that which exists on the level of politicians and businessmen. As is the international experience.

So what I’m trying to say is maybe, in the context of corruption in Jordan, maybe, just maybe, the people raising the awareness should be raising it closer to home.

And if there is ever any hope in combating corruption on that level, then the instruments required are quite simple: a strong, consistent and implemented legal system, as well as an independent monitoring and regulatory body, and a free media.

None of those things do exist currently: at least no where near the required efficiency level we need them to be at.

Hence wasta.

Hence bribery.


  • Actually the form of corruption Jordan most suffers from is the corruption citizens most aware of and most capable of remedying. When you go to the polls and elect your illiterate tribal acquaintance, you are enforcing corruption and supporting it. When you praise your government official relative, you are hiding his/her shortcomings and painting a false perception of the reality. When you slip the king, prime minister, or a MP a note of your wants/needs, you are asking them to mind the process and to hinder the system, which is up side down to start with. When you keep quite and brush aside the faulty policies of the local municipality all the way to the policies of the government council, you are feeding the fire that is eating away the future of Jordan and Jordanians.

    I have heard it and read it in so many places before, Arabs in general have no street. the voice of the street does not exist. Or it is corrupt and weak if it did. There is no way to have a 110 members of parliament all honest and virtuous when you have 6+ million residents not interested in reform and actually support the contrary. And please don’t tell me of the higher powers weakening the street. The Algerians were able to kick out the greatly more superior French. The Earlier Americans defeated the British empire. The Orange revolution instated a democracy in the shadow of Russia. And Yesterday, hungry Thai citizens took over the government compound.

    I truly believe in the sincerity of the king’s efforts to reform the country and change its culture of corruption. But, there are so many other powerful personalities that work in the other direction to their own benefit, not the country’s. We have seen so many other initiatives, committees, councils, and forums geared toward lifting Jordan out of its misery. But, the controlling forces have other thoughts and desires.

    I really wish this committee all the luck in achieving its goals. But, haven’t we seen enough committees go by already?

  • mab3oos, i’m impressed … on the other hand the solution for corruption in jordan is pretty simple 😀
    get people in the goverment to start using proxies and wikileaks, and start another whistleblower protection legislation and a whistle blower how to guide that will be publicized.
    For after all we, the people of jordan, love gossip and what better way to elevate it when we can celebrate the fact that they can be celebrated on a national level, albeit anonymously.

  • I agree with you mab3oos, there has to be a complete mind shift or cultural upheaval for any attempt to fix this to work.

    I think bambam’s approach is interesting and I have thought about it many many times. However, I think as a society we are more likely to gossip about someone for not “performing” wasta (can’t think of another word) and not being good to him acquaintances, than for actually conforming to our social expectations.

    I don’t think one approach would work on its own.. we need to exapnd the Anti-Corruption Committee’s with Naseem’s suggestions, add to it bambam’s suggestion and a push towards transparency… I guess I snoozed off into my dream world again! :-S

    A man can only dream!

  • ” a strong, consistent and implemented legal system, as well as a free media. ”
    What are you talking about? last time I checked our media was 52% free.

    But really, if the qualified already left the country, and the ones in power view their positions as “honorary”, and if their is no measure for accountability, how do we expect anything to change?

    Why should we expect a change when tolerance is not a social phenomenon but rather another aspect of the failed policies.

    My question is: do we have leadership? Is there someone inspiring us? Is there a vision(Other than “toward a green jordan by the year 2000”)? When someone or something brings the worst out of us, When success is the unusual, ..thats enough I am out of both thoughts and words..And as our friends at the local media would always say: At least we live in an oasis of peace and stability…

  • You’re right about the “public institutions” lacking efficiency and part of that reason is that they’re too preoccupied in serving/favoring a select few who are either wastafied, have money, or (in some places) are attractive, single, and flirty females.

    If you don’t fall into any of the above categories it makes it so much harder to get NORMAL things done like renew a passport, get a license, or get hired. The general public is well aware of that but noone really thinks about being part of “the change”. So maybe there needs to be some kind of public awareness campaigns, but in the first place who on earth would take that initiative….surely not the people with the authority to do so!

    I once confronted my dad about his overuse of the wasta and his response was pretty much that corruption in Jordan is a hopeless cause, and that’s just how you have to do things.

  • Off topic:

    I was trying to check your archives, but for some reason, I can’t find the posts ordered by time. Thought I might let you know.

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