Groups voice out transparency

Groups voice out transparency
By Andrew Mernin
Sat 09 Dec 2006 08:00 PM

Middle Eastern governments need a huge shake-up in transparency levels and must face closer scrutiny if corruption in the region is to be wiped out, according to the chairman of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce.

Speaking at this week’s Arab Strategy Forum, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer said: “Not once in the Arab world have we seen a single government officer being prosecuted (for corruption). I don’t see any governments in the Arab world following international accounting standards. These standards should be imposed on governments as well as the private sector,” he added.

The World Bank estimates that US$1 trillion is paid in bribes worldwide every year, with a third of this figure changing hands in the Arab world. It is also estimated that a 1% rise in corruption every year can cause a 3% rise in inflation and slow down GDP by 1%.

Aryeh Neier, president of the Open Society Institute, a US non-government organisation (NGO), urged Gulf States to work with other oil-producing nations in the fight against corruption. Neier called on oil-rich GCC countries to join the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a body that aims to bring improved governance to resource-rich nations from across the globe. “I believe that if they would take part in the initiative by providing accountability for their revenues, they would enhance their capability to address the needs of their countries,” he said.

Peter Eigen, founder and chairman of Transparency International, an NGO from Germany, said that the creation of a civil society with NGOs holding governments to account was the key to combating corruption in the region.

Habib Al Mulla, chairman of the Dubai Financial Services Authority told delegates at the corruption that because 56.4% of Arabs are unable to read or write, illiteracy was to blame. “It has to start with education," he said.

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