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.”

 


Israel seeks immediate resumption of talks on citizens held in Gaza

Updated 07 April 2020

Israel seeks immediate resumption of talks on citizens held in Gaza

  • Israel linked any future coronavirus aid to Gaza on progress in efforts to recover two soldiers who went missing in the 2014 war and two civilians who separately slipped into the enclave
  • Yehya Al-Sinwar, Hamas chief in Gaza, has rejected the linkage to coronavirus aid

JERUSALEM/GAZA, April 7 : Israel called on Tuesday for the immediate resumption of talks on the return of four Israelis held for years in the Gaza Strip after the Palestinian territory’s Hamas rulers said they might be willing to move forward on the issue.
Last week, Israel linked any future coronavirus aid to Gaza on progress in efforts to recover two soldiers who went missing in the 2014 war and two civilians who separately slipped into the enclave. Hamas holds all four.
The Islamist group has never stated whether the two soldiers are dead or alive, but neither has it provided a sign of life, as it has done in a previous similar case.
It has said that returning the four would require negotiating a prisoner swap and would not be done in exchange for humanitarian aid.
In a statement on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said his national security team “stands ready to take constructive action with the goal of returning the fallen and the missing and of ending the affair, and are calling for an immediate dialogue via mediators.”
In past rounds of talks, Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have served as intermediaries.
Yehya Al-Sinwar, Hamas chief in Gaza, has rejected the linkage to coronavirus aid but on Thursday said he saw “a possible initiative to revive this issue” of the Israelis held in the territory if Israel frees jailed Palestinians.
“A prisoner swap will exact a big price” from Israel, he told Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, saying that were it to start by releasing sick, old and female prisoners “we may offer something partial in return.”
Hamas, hoping to head off a contagion it says has so far caused 13 cases in blockaded Gaza, wants Israel to ease economic conditions. Israel is also loathe to deal with a new humanitarian crisis on its border with Gaza, now sealed by both sides.
Israel in the past has freed hundreds of jailed Palestinians, including many militants, in exchange for the recovery of dead or captive Israelis.
But rightists in Netanyahu’s ent coalition government, including Defense Minister Naftali Bennett, opppose any further releases of Palestinian militants.