Kuwait Law: Wasta

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.

For any legal inquiries, please email me on ask@fajerthelawyer.com and we will get back to you within 24 hours.

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.

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12 comments, add your own...

  1. aaa says:

    Getting jobs through connections is not the same as wasta imo. The Ivy League US Business Schools literally teach you that making connections is way more valuable than anything else you can do to get jobs in the future, and if you’re hiring someone a lot of the time it’s better to hire someone you trust personally than taking a chance on a complete unknown.

    The wasta I think is total bs is when you go through a very long government procedure in a ministry for no reason at all then get a “Oh we lost your paper, Oh it’ll take a month longer than we expected”, or straight up to your face “If you want it now pay money”. That’s just bribery at that point.

    • American guy says:

      Sorry,you are wrong….the wasta system is ingrained in the kuwaiti system in most places….you see in the job sector where it is very rampant amongst not just kuwaitis but expats also (although the percentage might be lesser in expats than Kuwaitis but its still significant)….i dont say its there in everything …many procedures happen without bribes and wasta as in any society. But in the job sector its rampant where many jobs of the deserving are taken by the incompetent ones who have wasta.

    • American guy says:

      I have seen many kuwaitis and expats fake degrees and take up good jobs…this has to stop in kuwait.amongst expats egyptians and indians bring fake degrees which they get it attested in their home countries by paying big bribes to the right people..unless the degrees are attested by a third party private agency like they have in USA and also in India which i came to know from a colleague, the fraudsters will thrive in kuwait and gulf.In India it seems the Corporates send your degrees to a private consultancy who specialize in authentication of degrees and if they fund you have faked it they will black list you in all major IT, banking and MNC companies.

  2. Dun says:

    The failed system in Kuwait REQUIRES wasta.
    Let’s say for example you were stopped at a red light and a crazy asshole hits you from behind pushing you smack into the middle of the intersection. In doing so the red light camera snaps a picture of your car that was just violently pushed into the intersection. This happened to me 3 years ago and because of the ‘red light’ camera violation i had an 80KD fine and a travel ban imposed on me. I tried for over a month to solve this the rational way, but after giving up I called my wasta and everything went to normal in 24hrs.

    So its an absolutely necessary evil in a country that has no systems.

  3. meh says:

    Actually nobody says anything if someone hires a relative in the public sector. Well actually everybody says something but the government says nothing.

  4. Ahmed says:

    Networking is basically wasta. Anyone hired based on who he knows is wasta. Because no one is hired based on their merit or potential merit, hence no or low training in the work field. Its basically who do you know. It is sad but this is how it is. Even in other countries its called something else but this how the world works. And I wish it was different. Everything I do or try to do, has to be done with wasta. Not because I have connections. But this only way to get anything done in this country and other countries.

    • Ahmed says:

      I had to get a wasta to visit a dentist. I had to get a wasta to get my driving license. I had to get a wasta to be hired. I had to get a wasta to do basic shit that shouldn’t need a wasta. And it actually makes me angry that I need wasta to do shit that should be as easy as applying for something and getting it.

  5. vimal jacob says:

    AKA corruption.
    In india, we fight it.
    Kuwait has made it apart of life.
    If someone uses wasta and gains a seat/right that was meant for someone more deserving, we call it out. private or public, it makes no difference.
    we are going after the reservation system now.

  6. Stanley says:

    I am american who reverted to islam in the U.S. my experience in kuwait a decade back was unbelievable. I m happy i left that place where i witnessed so much inhumanity. Wasta is the order of the day there in most cases. you can hardly see any islamic values in kuwaitis especially human rights which is devoid of fair treatment to people of different nationalities, especially south asian and non-gcc arabs. Hypocrisy is the nature of majority kuwaitis, They depend on expats for 95% of the work and yet create laws that are so antiexpat… the hospitals have seperate timings for kuwaitis and non kuwaitis, this is like living in mrdieval ages …the law must have been imposed because the kuwaiti public demanded that expats are causing inconvenience in hospitals. The Prophet said their is no superiority of arab over non arab, neither a white is superior to a black..he also said anyone with an inch of pride will not enter the heaven… I wonder does this saying of Prophet have any effect on Kuwaitis? I as an American was not looked down upon or treated badly but i witnessed how they look down upon other nationalities like slaves and trash, infact the Kuwaitis feel inferior of themselves compared to western nationals.
    And moreover they dont have any revenues besides oil ,only 4% non oil revenue, compare that to UAE which generates 45% via non oil revenues. As the petrol prices are down and will remain low for many decades due to Shale oil and also the west and devoloped nations are migrating to Hybrid, electrical technology to power automobiles ..with its current deficitbof 20-30 billions US dollars a year you will see kuwait go exhaust all its soveriegn fund reserves by 2030..and then you will see expats leave this place and also the maids who are big time abused in this nation ….to be only left alone to rot like a useless crap …95% buildings in kuwait will go empty then and a big portiom of kuwaitis income wilk go down the drain…. . and i doubt they will be investment friendly like UAE cause no foriegner will invest in a place which has so anti expat business laws and treatment. So all the luxuries and big time racism is only for limited period i.e 12-15 years when the tables will be turned and you will be grazing sheep and camels again for a living since 95% kuwaitis cant independently do productive work and you dont export anything besides oil. This is the consequence of over dependency on oil and expats and treating them like trash…..for all this your current and future generations will bear catastrophic results. The rich business families and the highly educated kuwaitis who are less than 2-3 % of population will migrate to west…the rest 97% will be useless for themselves.

  7. Wozza says:

    It’s strange. Whenever I hear a Kuwaiti talking about wasta they always refer to it as having connections. However, whenever I hear a non-Kuwaiti such as an Egyptian or Jordanian talk about wasta they always refer to it as having to give money to get something done.

    • Kuttan says:

      It’s simple. A Kuwaiti will never ask another Kuwaiti for Money. Its to give a good impression and not besmirch his family name. The payment is in Kind. You scratch my back i scratch your back sometime in the future.

      For an expat he can easily take easy money and he will because he knows the expat cant really help him with anything.

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