Tuesday, June 02, 2009

A question of wasta

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid has extended his recent online Q&A session with journalists by now doing the same with the public at large.

One question caught my eye because of recent conversations about the subject, wasta.

Yaser Abdulla Ahmed Al Tunaiji of Ras Al Khaimah asked:

The phenomenon of wasta [use of connections] has spread noticeably in our country. We see it in action every day. Why is it that we don't see anyone fighting this phenomenon? I have personally suffered from the effects of wasta, and that's the reason I decided to bring the issue up for your kind consideration.

The word crops up regularly in conversation and what amuses me is that the complaints are usually made as though it's a phenomenon unique to the UAE.

I've heard the phrase 'it's not what you know but who you know' in many places around the world, and that's wasta.

The British 'old school tie' is wasta - the disproportionate number of Old Etonians in powerful positions confirms its effectivesess.

It's far from being something unique to this country.

The other thing that amuses me is that the people complaining about it wouldn't hesitate to use it if they had it.

Who wouldn't use wasta to give themselves an advantage for a job, or to get an upgrade on a flight, or tickets to a big sold-out show?

Overall it was an interesting exercise in dialogue between ruler and people, something which isn't the norm around the world by any stretch of the imagination.

They talk to us, or at us, but it's not often a two-way conversation.

The dialogue covered everything from personal questions to foreign affairs, questioning the PM's decisions in recent cabinet reshuffle to the position of stateless citizens.

If you listen to the criticism of the UAE you wouldn't believe that a ruler here would talk with the people, would answer sensitive questions such as those last two.

A long way to go it's true, but it isn't as bad as many claim and great strides are being made in a short time.

You'll find all the questions and answers in the Emirates Business 247 supplement.


Dave said...

You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.... providing we do it whilst abiding by the laws of the land and not semi-naked on a beach at Jumeriah...

She said...

'jobs for the boys" , "friends in high places" , "wasta " - whatever you call it - it DOES go on everywhere.
What surprised me when I first came to the UAE was how openly accepted it was - nobody batted an eyelid- I hadn't experienced such a nonchalance about it before!Maybe I was moving in the wrong circles back home!!