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Bribery may be defined as an illegal act or an offence that involves offering and giving something such as money to gain an illicit and undue advantage. The world in general has witnessed incidences of corruption, including bribery, with the Arab world being identified as one of the areas where bribery is rampant.
Generally, the Arab world includes various countries of the Middle East, among them being Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Qatar, UAE, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia among others. In these Arab countries, although bribery is seen as an illegitimate act, it is also generally accepted as a social norm that binds people together, especially due to lack of democracy. Therefore, bribery may have both negative and positive consequences to the people in Arab countries.
Some of the negative consequences and disadvantages to a country include inflation and poor governance. Nevertheless, different types of bribery in the Arab world have negatively affected the lives of people by creating tension in various countries, although the society views bribery as a means of acquiring the elusive democracy.
Types of bribery
There are different types of bribery witnessed in different countries around the world. In Arab countries, bribery is usually known ‘asrachwa’ while in Spanish and French speaking countries, it is known as ‘mordida’ and ‘desssousde-table’ respectively. Different types of bribery include the use of gift, sop, favor, sweetheart deals, kickbacks, funding, secret commission, promotion, donation, and lucrative contract among many other forms and types (Reader, 1997).
Bribery is always divided into two forms: Firstly, there are those bribes that involve the person in power being given offerings and other items in order to use his or her position in the office unjustly to benefit others. The second form of bribery involves cases where someone obtains power due to suffrages of those who have the ability to do it or use the power more appropriately. In such cases, a person who obtains and receives the bribe is able to influence the process unjustly and ensure that the bribery process is successful.
Bribery is usually seen in various instances; for example, a police officer may be seen receiving money from motorists who are involved in minor offences such as over-speeding in order to let them off the hook.
Another example of bribery is an instance where a citizen gives out money to a police officer during check-up in order to avoid being checked. Furthermore, bribery also takes the type of “a secret commission, a profit made by an agent, in the course of his employment, without the knowledge of his principal”, which is usually referred to as sweetener or kick-back (Lewis, 2000).
Therefore, any act that requires someone to give something as a way of buying favor is a bribe, whether it is given in good faith or otherwise. This act is normally prevalent in public offices where control of employee activities is limited and where there is a lot of bureaucracy before one gets the service he or she needs. In addition, public offices are sometimes limited in terms of signatories, thus making it difficult for an outsider to get access to services demanded unless a bribe is offered.
Bribery in Arab countries
Many countries in the world have been accused of engagement in corruption, with bribery being one of the most prevalent forms of corruption. Although the international community’s watchdogs have been aggressively campaigning against corruption, individual governments in different countries especially the developing countries have not been fully committed to the fight.
This may be due to inadequate resources or inefficient policies to fight the vice. Moreover, although bribery is widespread across the world, Arab countries seem to be more notorious than other countries in demanding and giving bribes, especially due to autocratic type of leadership witnessed in most of these Arab countries.
This bribery takes various forms, including political corruption, business contact bribery, and judicial bribery among others. One example of bribery is in a case where Egyptian court convicted Assembly official and petroleum dealers, including Petrogas, Al-Nasr Petroleum Co. and Petroleum Marine Services Co., over bribery (Bassiouni, 2007).
With some Arab countries emerging as global market hubs, such as UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, various instances of bribery emerge, especially when people want to get business opportunities in these emerging markets. Another case of bribery is seen in political environment where a political leader rewards his friends with economic deals, which involve in the manipulation of public resources in most cases (Rinnawi, 2006).
In Arab countries, most bribery cases usually occur due to lack of transparency and effective procedures that can be used in the government procurement deals and contracts.
One example that stands out involves the alleged bribery by the Qatari government in 2010 in order to secure votes to host the 2022 world cup (Scott, 2011). Again, in Arab countries, lack of tangible anti-bribery laws to curb bribery usually results to more people being involved in bribery, since they are usually aware that there would be no punishment even if they are involved in bribery.
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Besides, bribery in these countries is also caused by lack of proper political processes and good standards of governance. The recent political uprisings in some Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia and Yemen where the public accused their autocratic governments of massive corruption and underhand deals is a clear testimony to prevalence of bribery in the Arab world (Udasin, 2013).
According to Udasin (2013), an author in “the Jerusalem Post” newspaper, opinion polls in most Arab countries that took part in Arab Spring indicate that the level of corruption has risen during the last few years after the uprising, with most people in these countries foreseeing a much worse future.
Again, in these countries, salaries of civil servant are usually very low, leading to more bribery cases as people try to increase their income to sustain their lives. The governments’ failure to put in place institutional reforms that are important in curbing bribery also fuels bribery in most of these countries (Baumann, 2006).
There have a number of cases of bribery in Arab countries since the 2011 revolutions, with most countries such Tunisia, Libya and Egypt, Lebanon feeling the most challenge. The revolution came as result of lack of government stability in these countries, which led to lack of confidence in the government by the public. Again, these countries also face many challenges in their police reform systems, unstable judiciary and the military that in most occasions has failed to fully support to the government.
Again, according to Frishkopf (2010), research has shown that bribery and corruption are the biggest social problems affecting the society, with most people complain about prevalence of bribery in both private and public institutions in these Arab countries. Moreover, bribery is usually seen starting with the top government authorities who later influence other junior government officials to be involved in bribery.
As a result, bribery and corruption have worsened in the Arab countries, amid increased economic and political instability stability. One area where bribery is evident is in government’s procurements and contract transactions where anybody interested in acquiring a government contract or an investment opportunity has to part with a bribe, especially considering the formalization process is more bureaucratic in nature.
With the availability of petroleum and other natural resources in these Arab countries, bribery cases has been seen, especially where oil business transaction are involved, as people try to capitalize on the lucrative benefits emanating from this business (Frishkopf, 2010).
Effects of Bribery
Bribery is one of the acts that usually result into harmful and bad consequences. Firstly, bribery usually undermines democratic process in a country and prevents people from getting equal shares of opportunities in the country. This usually results into low economic progress of the country, as it will distorts and affects the investment procedures, thereby preventing free markets strategy.
In addition, in some countries where bribery is unavoidable, the poor people suffer most as they are denied their basic human rights unless they give bribes. This also affects the country’s economy and development, as those who do not give bribes fail to get a chance to participate in building projects in the country. The result of this is an increased level of poverty, a situation that is common in most of these countries, especially those that do not have many resources to accommodate a significantly large number of citizens.
In addition, too much bribery usually lowers and delays government processes, as those who are responsible in these processes usually wait for bribes in order to accomplish their duties. As a result of this, government policies are lowered and the standards of doing business in the countries are also affected leading to investors and businessmen running away from the country.
Counter argument about bribery in Arab World
The Arab world has been accused of allowing corruption to thrive, but most people in Arab countries see it as a way of life. In addition, bribery in the Arab world is viewed as a means of enhancing social cohesion and eliminating individualism, especially because it facilitates mutual interdependence and interpersonal ties (Hashi, 2013).
For instance, giving gifts in return for a favor is a common phenomenon that influences indebtedness in the society thus creating social bonds among people. The ever-present nepotism in Arab countries makes the role of public officials to resonate between official duty and enhancing familial ties. Moreover, dictatorial leadership witnessed in these Arab countries does not allow democracy to thrive, and the only way people have to enjoy democracy is through bribery.
This ineffectiveness of governments forces people to utilize their social ties in order to bribe public officials to address their interests, which could have been ignored if they did not give bribes. Therefore, bribery in Arab societies is an important aspect that holds people together while at the same time enhancing ‘democracy’ amid authoritarian form of governance.
Refutation about Bribery in Arab World
Despite the society viewing bribery as normal and an acceptable way to access democracy, there are bad consequences that have seem most governments in Arab countries fail or collapse. Generally, a lot of money in form of bribery goes to private hands, making the government unable to support its citizens adequately, thus leading to increased cases of poverty.
The so-called democracy is only accessible to those who have the means to offer bribes, especially considering that any form of bribery must have a financial value, which works against those who are less endowed (Rinnawi, 2006). Therefore, bribery cannot buy democracy in totality as some people may tend to argue.
This paper has discussed bribery in Arab countries and discovered that, in most cases, bribery in Arab countries is caused by government instability and lack of proper policies and reforms to deal with bribery. Again, from the paper, it is clear that bribery is very rampant in Arab countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Libya, Qatar, Yemen and many other Arab countries.
Therefore, it is important that proper strategies, including providing better policies to curb bribery, be put in place. In addition, if possible, laws should be put in place to ensure that top government officials do not involve in business transaction deals in isolation; rather, it should be a public process that requires vetting and audit before being validated.
Besides, the government should also provide policies that ensure that those who involved in bribery are severely punished and removed from their official duties. Generally, in Arab countries, bribery usually begins with top government officials and then spreads to junior officials as well as the public. Therefore, in these countries, cases and acts of bribery is a normal phenomenon to them since almost everybody in these countries is involved in bribery.
Moreover, bribery leads to negative and harmful consequences including poor economic growth. When this happens, the poor and innocent citizens tend to suffer, as they do not have resources to access services from public officials. Therefore, it is important that relevant and significant anti-bribery policies and reforms be put in place by the governments of these Arab countries in order to deal appropriately with bribery cases, while at the same uplifting people’s human rights.
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