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Well said!

Jan 23,2021 - Last updated at Jan 23,2021

Finally, someone has put the matter of corruption into perspective; and this is Prime Minister Bisher Khasawneh.

In his reply speech to MPs’ comments on his government’s policy statement on January 13, he said the following about corruption:

“The government promises to tackle all forms of corruption with firmness and transparency, underscoring that goodness, decency, purity and cleanliness of hand are the norm for all citizens and in all institutions, and that the forms of corruption are but a small black spot in a wide white ocean, making this country always a good example and a source of admiration and pride.

We will all work, God willing, to eradicate this black spot, cautioning at the same time against falling in the trap of giving the wrong impression that this black spot is the rule, when it is in fact the exception.”

Will-put indeed!

Since discourse about corruption has greatly intensified in the past decade in particular and since popular interest in it has mounted, the matter has been blown out of proportion.

In peoples’ daily conversations, in parliamentary debates, in the press and media, and in social media, especially, so much has been, and is being, said about corruption that one is under the impression that the country is rampant with corrupt people and with corruption.

Billions have been wasted, billions stolen, billions embezzled, billions given as favours, and billions are waiting to be restored if only action is taken, etc.

A friend has jokingly said to me once: “Corruption has become the country’s oil and gas.”

All officials in the public sector and all governmental institutions are corrupt.

But so are all people whom you disliked or disagreed with, and especially those who refrained from doing you favours.

The word “corrupt” or “corruption,” in this farcical game, is on every tongue, and it is used lavishly and with no caution or control.

Even those who want to enforce laws and prevent corruption from happening are accused by those who want to break rules of being corrupt.

The irony is that even governmental officials, including prime ministers and ministers, have started using the term, since the term attracts attention and brings about popularity, or so it seems.

One governmental official once declared upon assuming his duties, “I will be a martyr in the cause of fighting corruption.”

The word “corruption” has become so attractive, so popular, so sweet on tongues, and music to ears; regardless of whether it means anything at all or not.

The first victim in this zero-sum game is the reputation of the country. Unintentionally but recklessly and foolishly, such discourse has given the impression that Jordan is perhaps the most corrupt country in the world.

The second are our institutions, most of which are strong, vibrant, rule-enforcing, and efficient. Over the past hundred years, it is these institutions that have made the country what it is today: successful, stable, robust, and a pride.

The third are the people, the vast majority of whom are honourable, kind, generous, honest, and highly principled and of clean hands.

Much can be said about why this loose and irresponsible use of the word corruption is unfair and objectionable, but two I wish to highlight here.

The first is what premier Khasawneh has eloquently and wisely intimated, i.e. the false impression given about the extent of corruption in the country: that it is much bigger and wider than it truly is.

It is, as he precisely and crystal clearly put it: a small black spot in a wide white ocean.

The second, which one hopes the prime minister will take into account, is that the term corruption is an imprecise, ambiguous, vague, and loose term; and that it is largely a misnomer and a red-herring.

Rather than lump so many things under “corruption”, we would do much better to call things by their names.

Instead of speaking generally and vaguely, let us be concrete and precise.

Let us talk, for example, about fighting tax evasion. This is something well-defined and tangible, and highly needed.

Let’s talk about fighting bribes, embezzlement, forgery, nepotism, favouritism, deliberate violations of laws and regulations, etc.

These are things which we can clearly define, deal with, fight and stop.

Unlike talking about corruption, which ultimately remains nothing but talk, let us talk about specific, well-defined and aptly named problems, which we can tackle with clarity and with precise and effective measures.

And this is what we should be doing, after a decade of what looks much like being lost in a maze.

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