Wasta translates from Arabic “who you know” and in general is represents one’s clout business or other dealings. Qatar intends to stop its ‘wasta’ culture from business dealings as part of its crackdown on corruption and bribery.
According to Robert Musgrove, a leading legal expert, Wasta can be considered a form of bribery. “You look at the bribery act in the UK, and one man’s bribery is another man’s way of doing business. This region involves things like gifts. It is not necessarily given with the intent to influence; it is given with the intent to demonstrate status, friendliness and openness,” Musgrove was quoted as saying.
Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Thani, a former emir of Qatar started the movement to eliminate corruption and bribery. Qatar set up an anti-corruption watchdog in 2011 to track state ministries and agencies.
Though, it is suggested that government employees should not own or manage a private business or even be on the board of a listed company, most of them own or have a stake in businesses.
Wasta is used to bribe officials and win multi-million dollar tenders in Qatar and also to land a job. However, a report claims that the people who get a job through influence find it difficult to get the acceptability in the workplace.
Saleh Al Anzi who did voluntary work in an organisation and later got a job there using the influence of the top official found it difficult to mingle with his colleagues.
“People wouldn’t talk to me, and although I was a university graduate, I felt like I wasn’t welcome there,” said Al Anzi, narrating his bitter experience.
“People, perhaps, didn’t like the fact that I had landed the job using influence with the top man there.”
“I tried talking to people. I tried really hard, but no one would reciprocate. It took a long time to be friendly with my colleagues, and it was only after I proved with my work that I indeed had the ability,” said Al Anzi.
However, according to Dr Batool Mohiuddin, Psychology professor at Qatar, told that Wasta is a common thing in the Qatari community and carries social prestige.
People feel proud abusing the system,” she said.
Using wasta is not just a Qatari thing, so to say. People in the GCC like to boast about walking into a government department and getting work done in seconds.
Take a look at this video that shows how having a wasta is better than having a magic lamp and genie, just for fun though: