Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Vitamin W

Arab News out of Saudi of Arabia has a regular section "Local Press" which I find useful to follow. It gives some insight into what Arab language papers in KSA are saying.

Today there are two articles about wasta. The first is here and is titled "Graduates with 101%GPA" and first appeared in Al-Riyadh. It says in part,
Local newspapers reported that three sets of twins had graduated from high school with Grade Point Averages (GPA) of 96.97 percent, 97.33 percent and 99.55 percent respectively. Despite these impressive marks, they all failed to get admitted to a university. At the same time, local newspapers also joyfully announced that there were either 145,000 or 245,000 students enrolled at universities in the Kingdom.

In order to be somewhat closer to accuracy, we will rely on the smaller figure of 145,000 students being admitted to university. This in itself is a huge number and the lucky students must have surely obtained 100 percent GPAs, because the ones who managed to score 99.55 percent failed to get accepted by a university.

What I wonder is if it is possible for a student to have a GPA of 101 percent. I guess it is if one takes advantage of a “wasta,” which proves that the admission system of our universities, which is based on students’ total high school grades, is useless and unfair.
Then there is this story entitled "We Need More Vitamin 'W'." It first appeared in Al-Eqtisadiah. An extract:
Islam is against the concept of bribes, and wasta is not something different to bribery. Both accomplish the same — the giving of something to someone illegally and unjustly. Wasta has become part of our daily life and is something used in the slightest and smallest of tasks.
Vitamin “W” is essential these days to successfully enroll at universities and colleges, and to secure jobs. This magical vitamin, which is derived from the concept of “wasta,” is something that is highly coveted in the Kingdom, where jobs and university places are scarce.

Vitamin W, which could also be described as “mediation,” is basically a method of depriving a youngster from his or her right and handing it to another undeserving individual.
Patronage destroys incentives to be productive and add to society's wealth, and creates bad incentives to direct effort to rearranging the slice of the pie you get. More meritocracy, please.



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