Post by Fajer Ahmed
I was having dinner last week with my Khaleeji friend Ghanim, and as usual we like to compare traditions and customs. It is nice to understand the differences, but one thing he said struck me. “Fajer, I heard that everything in Kuwait is done by wasta, you want to find a job? Wasta. You want a contractor to build a house? Wasta. You want to buy that bag? Wasta. I know wasta is an issue that people avoid in all of the Middle East and not just Kuwait, but it seems the situation is out of control in Kuwait”.
Now it is no surprise that we have wasta in Kuwait, reference to it is all over the place (does anyone remember the Got Wasta t-shirts?!). But somehow over the past few years, wasta turned from an unethical tool used for serious matters to a normal way of life to get anything done. Lets take a step back.
What is wasta? According to Wikipedia, it is an Arabic word referring to using one’s connections and/or influence to get things done. And how bad is wasta? It sounds negative in Western media when referring to Arabic culture, but is that really the case?
I usually refrain from sharing opinions and stick to facts, but I really think that the word wasta is too broad and can refer to acts with positive and/or negative consequences.
Wasta that has a negative impact on society can be a very serious issue, it can prevent people from receiving their rights, because those rights are passed on to someone with a stronger connection, a stronger wasta. How does the Kuwait law resolve this? First of all it is very hard to prove wasta in a small society like Kuwait, but if it is proven that the favorable act was done by a public employee causing damage to another person, then the public employee could be punished. For example, your uncle works in the government entity and he makes you “Assistant Star Gazer” even though there was someone else who was more qualified for that position. Your uncle could face up to three years jail time for that. This law only applies to public sector employees since wasta is not considered a crime in the private sector. But, employees in the private sector could get punished by their employer.
As for me, I believe that it is great to collaborate and network, be nice to others and do favors, but never do I do anything that might effect another person’s life negatively. What are your thoughts? Let me know.
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Post by Fajer Ahmed – Legal Counsel
The legal opinions expressed in this post are those of the author Fajer. Opinions expressed by Mark or any other writer on 248am.com are those of the individual’s and in no way reflect Fajer’s opinion.