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Wasta problem?

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Transparency Int'l

Guanxi in China, blat in Russia, pistolão in Brazil — the practice of taking advantage of personal connections has many names around the world. In Arabic speaking countries, it is known as wasta and our latest survey suggests that it is deeply ingrained in many aspects of daily life.

The cost of favouritism

This Wednesday, we published our Global Corruption Barometer Middle East and North Africa. It is one of the largest, most detailed surveys of citizens’ views on corruption and experiences of bribery.

The results show just how badly favouritism and other forms of corruption affect people’s lives in the region. In Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine, for example, more than one in three people who accessed public services used wasta in the previous twelve months — equivalent to approximately 3.6 million people. This has a devastating impact on other citizens, forcing them to the back of the queue for essential services and putting their health and economic security at risk. Read more.

Lacking political integrity

Favouritism also undermines trust in government, in a region where many are already frustrated by their leaders: in our survey, people identified members of parliament, government officials and heads of state as the most corrupt groups. At the same time, 65 per cent think corruption is getting worse in their country and that their government is not doing enough to tackle it. Read more.

Gendered corruption

For the first time in the Middle East, the survey collected data on sexual extortion, or sextortion, by public officials. Shockingly, one in five people have experienced it, or know someone who has. Where coerced sex is the currency of the bribe, evidence points towards a gender bias that particularly affects women. Read more.

Recently millions have taken to the streets in mass protests against corruption and governments in the region clearly have a long way to go to win back the trust of citizens. Leaders must show they are serious about fighting corruption and take action to build a system that works for everyone, regardless of their gender or their connections.

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