THE French philosopher and orientalist Constantin François de Volney wrote about his trip to Syria and Egypt in the 18th century, describing the critical economic conditions in Damascus due to lack of resources and funds.
To deal with this situation, its governor As’ad Pasha Al-Azm gathered his advisers to discuss how best to generate income that would improve economic conditions in Damascus.
His advisers proposed to impose taxes on Christians and small traders. After the governor inquired about the expected returns from such a measure, he was told it would bring in about fifty to sixty bags of gold.
As’ad Pasha sympathized with the target group and wondered how they would manage to pay taxes when their income was low and limited.
Instead, he told his advisers that he had a better way to generate the money needed, but he did not reveal his plan to them.
The next day he secretly summoned the state mufti. When he arrived at the palace, As’ad Pasha said: “We have received news that you have been misbehaving in your house for a long time, drinking alcohol and breaking the law.”
The mufti shook with fear and begged the governor, offering him large sums of money in return for covering up his shortcomings. The mufti offered 1,000 gold coins, but As’ad Pasha refused. The mufti then offered more and more until it reached 6,000 gold pieces, and finally the governor accepted.
He then summoned the judge and told him that there is documented information about his corruption, exploitation and betrayal of trust because he collected money illegally.
The judge chose to settle the case quietly in exchange for the payment of a sum of money. The governor did the same with representatives of the State and large companies of the Muslim and Christian faith. They all paid huge sums of money in exchange for their freedom.
After that, As’ad Pasha summoned his advisers and revealed to them that he had managed to collect 200 bags of gold, instead of the 50 that he was going to collect in the manner suggested by the advisers.
With admiration, they asked, “How did you do this?
The governor answered them with his eternal well-known anecdote: “It is better to shear sheep’s wool than to butcher lambs.”
In this story, there are indications of what decision-making authority can do when corruption prevails and when its ability to follow people’s affairs and meet their needs weakens.
The aforementioned story is applicable in our country of Kuwait. Here, from time to time, we come across warnings of a wage crisis. The state looks like a camel in the desert dying of thirst carrying water on its back.
On the other hand, there is a massive plunder of financial resources without anyone being apprehended for it. Meanwhile, the government is opening old files, such as the suspension of projects, more restrictions on the population and other proposals which do not differ in form and content from the proposal given to As’ad Pasha Al. -Azm through his advisers.
About two years ago, the Minister of Finance came to see us occasionally to discuss the issue of wages and the long speech on the budget deficit, which almost suggests that Kuwait is on the verge of drying up its resources. This leads us to wonder if this is true, or if there were ways and means out of the crisis.
Every country in the world has an arsenal of anti-corruption laws. There are countries in which presidents or heads of government have been jailed on charges of profit or corruption at the expense of public money, while massive projects are being implemented in these countries of around ten. times less than our costs. This is due to the existence of conscience, sincerity and also laws that do not compromise. There is no ‘scratch my back and I scratch yours’ and ‘this is our son’ policy, especially the prevalent policy in Kuwait – ‘your uncle’s money is none of your business’.
As for the Gulf, there are several examples of containment of looting and firm handcuffs to corrupt hands without waiting for trials and reports from advisers. No one is allowed to flee, which happened in Saudi Arabia in 2015 when King Salman bin Abdulaziz decided to launch a movement for radical reform for the state and “Vision 2030”.
He turned the matter over to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who chose to open all cases, and found that about ten percent or more of the state budget since 1980 had gone to the corrupt who overestimated the projects. of State.
He also found that three billion meters of land had been illegally seized, costing billions of riyals. So he ordered the gathering of the corrupt, including princes, merchants and entrepreneurs, at the Ritz hotel in Riyadh, and worked to get them back about two hundred billion dollars, in addition to the land they acquired.
The same happened in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and other Gulf countries, where leaders sought to end the corruption that had exhausted the state and its institutions and damaged its reputation in the country. ‘outside. In Kuwait, on the other hand, the corrupt stole their money abroad. Selective measures were taken against a few of them, but they were like palliatives. In addition, those who took advantage of the projects illegally were not punished.
Your Highness the Prime Minister, the executive power has many constitutional and legal powers which qualify it to recover looted funds. He also has the popular power to support any action he takes in this regard. All he has to do is make up his mind and make up his mind to avoid becoming another Lebanon whose money has been plundered by a mafia political class and whose population has suffered from an unprecedented crisis since 1850. C ‘ is what is happening in Iraq and Iran too.
Therefore, I call on Your Highness to face the crisis head-on and avoid referring the matter to committees and advisers. Remember the words of the late British Prime Minister Churchill: “If the government wanted to bury a case, they would send it to committees.
Shearing sheep’s wool is better than skinning lambs, as the story of As’ad Pasha Al-Azm illustrates. By Allah, you will be immortalized in Kuwaiti history, and even in Arab history.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, The Arab Times