Arabs fed up with corruption, survey suggests

Iraqi students voice their support for anti-government protesters. Corruption is a major issue for Arab youth, a survey has shown. (AFP)
Updated 09 December 2019

Arabs fed up with corruption, survey suggests

  • Arabs rank corruption as the number one problem in the region, finds YouGov poll
  • Corruption contributes to the weakening of economies in the MENA region, say experts

DUBAI: Corruption is considered by a large majority of Arabs to be one of the major problems facing their home country, according to an Arab News-Arab Strategy Forum public opinion research study.
The survey, conducted in 18 countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, found that out of 3,079 respondents, a combined average of 57 percent said corruption is the leading problem in their home country. The study, which was carried out by YouGov, also found that Arabs see corruption as the leading cause of conflict in the Arab world.
Independent experts consider corruption, whether grand, petty or political, to be a leading factor behind the wave of protests sweeping the region.
Transparency International, the global coalition against corruption, said that “outrage over corruption and financial mismanagement by governments” has underpinned mass protests in Egypt, Iraq and Lebanon over the past two months. 
Imad Salamey, associate professor of political science at the Lebanese American University, said corruption was “the source of a legitimacy deficit” that sparked the 2011 protest movements known as the Arab Spring. 
Corruption is not an “isolated” phenomenon but widely prevalent in the region, Salamey said, adding that it is “a product of weak and unaccountable governments that lack institutional checks and balances.”
He cited Tunisia and Lebanon as examples of corrupt countries where “nepotistic networks” are linked to politicians.



By contrast, he attributed Lebanon’s “rampant corruption” to the country’s political elite placing “incompetent followers (belonging to their own sects) in public offices in exchange for loyalties.” 
However, Salamey argued that “yet more serious corruption is associated with political leaders who grant immunity to illicit networks involved in cross-border armed smuggling and drug harvesting.”
The YouGov study shows that nationals of economically challenged Arab states are the most worried about corruption, with 63 percent selecting it as a top concern.
In the GCC countries, just under half of respondents (48 percent) named corruption as the top problem, while in the Levant this rose to 57 percent and was still higher in North Africa (64 percent).

The findings suggest that corruption is seen as more blameworthy by people in struggling economies such as Egypt, Salamey said. The same cannot be said about the oil-rich states, he told Arab News, since these countries find it relatively easy to make good any losses caused by corruption.
Abeer Alnajjar, a professor at the American University of Sharjah and researcher in Middle East politics, described corruption as a “marriage of convenience” between business and politics in the MENA region.
Abuse of power for private gain has not only helped tip many countries into the category of fragile or failed states, but its ripple effect also causes considerable hardship to large segments of the population, including women and marginalized people.
“Corruption is feeding on the lack of political and economic accountability of Arab political and business leaders,” said Alnajjar. 
Arab countries with transparency watchdogs designed to enforce accountability are no different in the sense that their political and economic structures are likely to be interconnected.
In the YouGov poll, 65 percent of respondents in Iraq and 53 percent in Lebanon listed corruption as one their country’s top problems.
The two nationalities were also the most conclusive in thinking that religion is affecting their country’s political decisions, with 75 percent in Iraq and 57 percent in Lebanon agreeing with the statement.
Talking about the two countries, Alnajjar said that both have suffered from sectarianism and other forms of political and religious polarization for decades.
“The good news,” she said, “is that people in Lebanon and Iraq have realized that sectarianism is just an instrument of the rich and the powerful to divert their attention from their real enemies — corrupt politicians and complacent business leaders.”


Five days of disagreement during Renaissance Dam negotiations

Updated 08 July 2020

Five days of disagreement during Renaissance Dam negotiations

  • Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its fresh water, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level
  • Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter

CAIRO: Five days of negotiations between Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan over a multi-billion dollar dam megaproject have seen nothing but disagreement, according to one of the parties involved in the talks.

Meetings to resolve the dispute were held under the auspices of the African Union (AU) for technical and legal teams from the three countries to try to bridge some points of disagreements, but the discussions did not result in anything new, a statement from Egypt’s Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation said.

The ministry added that, other than the disputes over the rules for refilling the dam after periods of prolonged drought, when the dam would be at the lowest levels of operation, Egypt was adhering to the application of certain rules for refilling but that Ethiopia was pushing to apply the same rules for the first filling, which added a burden to the High Dam in Egypt.

Egypt, which is almost entirely dependent on the River Nile for its fresh water, fears the dam will diminish its water supply, which is already below scarcity level.


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Ethiopia hopes that the massive $4.8 billion megaproject on the Blue Nile will allow it to become Africa’s largest power exporter. 

The Egyptian ministry statement also said that Ethiopia refused to include the annual operating curve of the dam by agreement and was determined to change the operating rules in a unilateral manner, a stance rejected by Sudan and Egypt.

On Wednesday evening, the delegation of each country met separately with AU observers and experts in order to reach a compromise.

In light of the negotiations Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed confirmed that his country would not harm Egypt regarding the Renaissance Dam. He added that it would start filling the dam to take advantage of the heavy rain season, saying the disagreement with Egypt over the operation and filling of the dam would be resolved.

“We will not deprive Egypt of water and we will reach an agreement soon,” Ahmed added.

Muhammad Al-Sebaei, a spokesman for Egypt’s Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources, said there remained disagreement on a number of issues between the countries and that no progress had been made.

Al-Sebaei added that, if Ethiopia remained insistent over its demands and the points that it wished to implement, an agreement would not be reached.

“Next Sunday is the deadline for the end of the Renaissance Dam negotiations, in the event that a new variable does not appear.”

Former Egyptian minister of irrigation, Mohamed Nasr Allam, told Arab News that there were aspects that must be taken into account by the Ethiopian side during the negotiations. Among these were, he explained, not to harm Egypt and Sudan’s share of the Nile waters according to historical agreements. Allam said that if Ethiopia objected again to historical agreements, then Egypt must resort to the International Court of Justice.

The previous round of negotiations failed to produce an accord due to Ethiopia's refusal to enter into a legally binding agreement and its announcement that it would begin filling the dam this month with or without the approval of the two downstream countries.

Mustafa Kamel El-Sayed, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said that Egypt should use its good international relations, especially with China and Russia, to pressure the Ethiopian side. 

Chinese companies were involved in building the Renaissance Dam, and China was in charge of building the electricity network that would transfer the generated energy from the dam to other parts of Ethiopia. “So, without cooperation from China, the construction of the dam and the associated electricity projects will suffer,” El-Sayed told Arab News.

According to El-Sayed, Russia had relations of strategic importance in protecting the dam. It had provided Ethiopia with the knowledge and equipment in the nuclear field by building a nuclear power plant and reactor, which was “very significant” for any country looking to be a nuclear power as well as helping in the field of energy and armament.

He advised Egypt to inform China and Russia that their interests in the country were determined by the extent of their assistance in helping with the Ethiopian position.

“Egypt is important to China in implementing its ambitious project known as the Belt and Road Initiative, which crosses Egypt on the way to Europe. It is very beneficial to China. Russia has major investments in Egypt that exceeds its investment in Ethiopia,” El-Sayed added.