Petty corruption in Kuwait on the rise

Kuwait has faced a growing number of incidents of corruption in recent years. Most troubling about this trend is that the corruption has reached into the very smallest aspects of daily life, so that bribes and fraud are becoming almost common place at nearly every level. Two troubling issues that have come to our attention lately include a shady rental practice now flourishing in Kuwait and the robbing of expats by low level government officials.

In our first instance, it seems that some landlords (or their managers) are engaging in fraud when it comes to rental contracts. Any tenant that disputes a rental increase can file a case in the rental court. But what’s happening now is perhaps a way to skirt the law. Some apartment managers are refusing to accept the rent or issue rental receipts until the tenant signs a contract for an amount far above the agreed upon rent. The way the scam works is this. Say a tenant and landlord agree to a rent of KD 250 for a two bedroom apartment. But when the contract is drawn up, the rental amount stated is KD 400. The tenant balks. But then the landlord or apartment manager explains that he will still accept the agreed upon KD 250 but give the tenant a receipt for KD 400.

Now some tenants will agree because they have few options or don’t understand the law. But if they do agree, and accept a contract with a wrong amount, and receipts with a wrong amount, they will have no recourse when and if anytime in the future (before the legal five year period is up) the landlord demands the higher rent stated in the contract. Even if the landlord or haris never asks for the higher rent during the five years, the tenant is still involved in a fraud. It has been suggested that some landlords and apartment managers try to use the higher rental contracts/receipts to take bank loans.

In the second instance, the Kuwait Times newspaper has received more than a few troubling reports of police officers, government officials and even some embassies taking cash from expats on the pretext of paying fines or other business. As in the Letter to the Editor we publish today, the situation is troubling because it represents a culture of petty corruption without consequences that a growing segment of society are involved in.

These may seem like small, unimportant instances – especially when the country faces so many more pressing challenges. But petty corruption can have serious impacts on a nation’s future and economic development. It can undermine a government’s ability to execute public services, discourage foreign investment by tarnishing a country’s reputation and harm chances for economic growth and diversification.

In 2016, corruption in Kuwait worsened significantly according to Transparency International. In its annual Corruption Perceptions Index published yesterday, the global corruption watchdog, ranked Kuwait 55 out of 167 countries, dropping it six places from last year’s spot at 49. Oddly enough, petty corruption is mostly common in poor, impoverished countries and it’s a telling sign of the problems facing Kuwait that such petty corruption is now happening here.


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