It was very interesting to watch the British news yesterday. The major issue was the Panama Papers and the implications for UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The premier released his income tax reports and many politicians volunteered to release their own tax returns. Looking at the numbers and the amounts on those sheets, I laughed my head off. I was looking at thousands. Not millions or billions. These numbers could be the income of any average doctor or engineer or architect or any professional lawyer, leave alone businessmen. Let’s say KD 3,000 or £6,000 – and we’re talking about the government, members of parliament and leaders.
Imagine guys if these returns were from somewhere in the Arab world? For a minister in the Arab world or a high-ranking government politician, the amounts would be staggering. I think the whole TV screen would be filled with sheets and numbers with dozens of zeros behind them.
The main difference in my mind is what matters is not the money. What matters is that the British politicians answer to the people. And that’s why there is transparency and advancement. Of course there is corruption – as in every country – but there is a system to check and balance the leadership, even of the highest ranks, like in Mr Cameron’s case. And he’s forced to publish his income and tax records in order to answer his critics and keep his seat. That’s how corruption is controlled as much as possible. And these countries advance.
It’s not only the fault of the politicians, but also of the the people – the voters who when voting only think of their own personal interests (wasta) rather than the nation’s overall good. Everyone should be answerable to the nation, regardless of his position. That’s why we see ministers and lawmakers coming to the parliament as ordinary people and leaving with bulging pockets after a couple of years.
This is the difference between us and the West. And no matter how many anti-corruption offices are opened in the Arab world, we won’t see them doing a serious job. I think anti-corruption officers as well as every politician should be transparent with their income and assets. And jokingly, even their wives and families, because quite often corrupt people don’t put money in their names, but use their family members’. Corruption has many faces.
By Badrya Darwish