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An example of wasta 2, November 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Middle East.
Tags: , , , ,

Wasta in the Middle East is guanxi in China. In the UK it would loosely be translated as some kind ‘connection’ that enables you to obtain advantage that, strictly speaking, you don’t deserve: it’s all about who you know, not what you know. While – clearly – this principle works to some degree in all societies, it is rather blatant in the Middle East; witness the man sauntering to the front of the queue in, say, the driving licence office.

Wasta is similar to nepotism. When I was asking some Qataris about this they – well educated, bright, articulate students – couldn’t believe that it was illegal in the UK. They considered it a duty for someone, if they have the power, to get a member of their family or one of their friends a job. An interesting cultural difference.

I was emailed the brief article below. This is, essentially, wasta in action. This is but one miniscule example of a pervasive system of wasta that governs the Middle East and certainly the Gulf. Too strong a wording you may think…I’m not so sure, but am always willing to listen to counter arguments.

The Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor said intervention by influential people has prevented the ministry from taking action against an unidentified sitting MP, reports Al-Seyassah daily, quoting reliable ministry sources.
The same sources said the MP has recruited 1,050 expatriate drivers in a trading and contracting company owned by him and his two sons.
The sources added the ministry had sanctioned the employment of only 10 expatriate workers, but the MP went on to hire 1,040 more workers. However, it has been reported only six people work in his company.

Hat tip: James E


1. sybil knox - 2, November 2010

Wasta is definitely alive & well in the M.E.**Love the t-shirt design! I’m in line to buy one if you decide to sell them ;P

2. Rusty Shackleford - 2, November 2010

It’s exactly this sort of thing that makes me wonder if the oddly low-key dismissal of the recent Doha tiger story was code for “the tiger owner is too connected for us to tell you the truth.”

If wasta and saving face consistently prevail over transparency, effectiveness or safety, then how can people trust officials (or each other) and distinguish between hoaxes and the truth?



thegulfblog.com - 2, November 2010

As you allude to (and cheetahs aside), wasta engenders problems on a far deeper level than it may first appear. It erodes notions of a meritocracy and actively discourages hard work; absolutely and exactly the opposite of what Gulf society needs.

thegulfblog.com - 2, November 2010

Hmm…maybe I don’t need this PhD thing after all…I’ll make my fortune with wasta T-Shirts instead…

3. zaydoun - 3, November 2010

Wasta is a cancer coursing through the Middle East

thegulfblog.com - 3, November 2010

Succinctly and eloquently put. True too.

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