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Rate the paper pushers

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Bindair Dundat

Joined: 04 Feb 2003
Posts: 1123

PostPosted: Mon Feb 23, 2004 5:55 pm    Post subject: Rate the paper pushers Reply with quote

I'm trying to get an idea of the COMPARATIVE efficiency/inefficiency of the various bureaucrats who we have to deal with in different countries in the ME. I propose here a survey based on your experience with government employees in *different* ME countries.

(Needless to say, if you have only worked in *ONE* ME country, you probably don't have much of a basis for comparison, so please don't take this as an invitation to blast your employers based on your comparison with the way things were back home. In other words, ME vets only need reply.)

Ignore the fact that the actual paper pushers are often not nationals of the host country; the natives set the tone and crack the whip, so we'll let them take the rap for the results.

For a scale, let's use 0-10, with 0 representing serious habitual damage done to people's lives or careers as a result of negligence, and 10 being mind-blowing efficiency and courtesy. 5 represents your typical, tolerable but not desirable regimen of come-back-tomorrow and insha'allahing that sees things happen eventually with no real harm done except to your nerves.

My contribution:

Jordan: I give Jordanians a 7 out of 10. Jordanians tend to be poor people who have to work for a living, which might explain something. They tend to not mind getting things done, and for a smile may try to smooth your path and speed you on your way.

Kuwait: 5 out of 10. Things get done, but often only after a lot of crying, begging, and chasing around on your part. Kuwaitis don't really mind helping you, but they usually have more important things to do (tea, cigarettes, shopping, etc.), and anyway that's what they keep Egyptians around for.

Oman: 4 out of 10. My experience with Oman is limited to an offer of employment that showed up at my door one month after the opening of school, and a tourist visa for which I had to return to the border post four different times in attempts to collect it. I finally got it, but only after asking them to cancel my application and return my passport: reverse psychology. Wink

UAE: 3 out of 10. I watched a whole bunch of new teachers at one of the state universities waiting, waiting, waiting for their residence visas, which were delayed for months because one UAE bureacrat was using the situation to put the screws to another UAE bureaucrat. Stuff got lost, etc., and people suffered.

So what's your experience?
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 17633
Location: USA

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 5:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mr Bindair,

I'm not sure about what exactly to rank. There is inefficiency of an employer and then there is the country.

Egypt - 1

Most Middle East hands would give Egypt the lowest score. The reputation of the Mogamma even extended to an actual board game where you had to try to get your papers through the bureaucracy to win the game. But, when I was there, I was with the American University and they did absolutely everything for you. All you had to do was give them your passport and learn how to wait patiently for it to make its way through the board game. They even got your shipping through customs and delivered it to your flat. I did once renew my own visa and it went quite smoothly, but I was constantly regaled with nightmare stories of dealing with them. So, while Egypt traditionally would get a score of 1, AUC would probably get a 9.

One thing about Egypt is that furnished foreigner flats normally come with a telephone as it would be impossible for you to get a land line. Plus, almost no one gets a car. Using taxis avoids dealing with driving licenses and car registrations.

Kuwait - 1

The absolute epitome (nadir?) of rude inefficient obnoxious bureaucracy. Every bit of paper and stamp took days, miles of driving from one end of the city to the another chasing people who were never there to get stamps or pay very high fees. It took me 3+ months and 5+ trips to get my driving license after completing all the paperwork. I can only think of one government employee who even tried to be semi-polite. I heard from Kuwaitis that they have exactly the same experience from these mostly Kuwaiti bureaucrats.

Kuwait University was just as inefficient and often just as rude. They are famous for not telling you whether you are hired or not - and then faxing you on Sept 1 asking why you aren't packed and at the airport because your visa and ticket are ready. The departmental people tried, but getting anything done at all was akin to root canals - only root canals are quicker and less painful.

UAE - 3 to 6.5

Here is one country where your employer is key. If you are working for HCT or ZU or AUS, you would probably feel that it was all relatively painless. Whereas MLI or ECSSR has many of its employees ripping out their hair.

The things that one does on their own - like getting a phone or buying a car or getting a driving license was paper-logged, but the people you deal with are usually polite - a mix of nationals and expats.

Oman - 7 to 8

Again it depends on your employer. I worked for SQU back when it was small and quite efficient. I expect that things may have become more difficult. The small college that I worked for later was very efficient. Getting such things as finger-prints and blood tests was not great fun, but most of the people were polite and quite efficient. Places were crowded and there were the usual lines, but you deal with Omanis and they are almost invariably polite - and often downright friendly. Getting the car registered or a driving license or the phone / internet hook-up required only one relatively short visit to each place.

In many ways, I would actually rank the Omani bureaucracy as matching that of the US. That is not really a compliment as much as a comment on bureaucratic (in)efficiency worldwide. In the US such things as getting a phone or a driving license are quite easy, but as someone who worked with taxes and had to deal with numerous state and federal government offices, the US is no better or efficient and the bureaucrats are often just as rude and inefficient. (and some of them are even nationals)

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Stephen Jones

Joined: 21 Feb 2003
Posts: 4124

PostPosted: Tue Feb 24, 2004 7:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nobody and nothing is ever totally legal in Egypt, possibly by design. I think somebody once worked out that to open a new business legaly would take about four years and a hundred different appliations, and that without any holdups.

I always though you paid somebody to do theise kind of thngs in Egypt, giving the fixer enough money to keep him happy and pay the sweeteners to keep everybody else in the process happy.

I agree with Veiled Sentiments about Kuwait. Every Kuwaiti has the right to a government job, and most take one even if they have a private job, but the result of the overstaffing is incredible delay.

The Saudis can be more efficient. In general the Saudis are pretty efficient if you have everything prepared beforehand (the residence permit takes less than a week for example) but getting everything is the problem and often the people who should know, don't, but aren't prepared to admit that. Mind you, when the Consulate can tell you that the forms you sent them did come off their website, and indeed are still up there, but are quite out of date, you can expect anytning. Certainly you can find yourself in the situation where one official says he needs sometning from another official, and the other official insists it's the first officials job to do that. Generally though things are solved at the last minute. The problem stil is that of not being told. I applied for a telephone in Riyadh in 1992. The man at the telephone exchange came down to my house and took all the details and said he would be in touch; all very pleasant and efficient, but I still would have preferred to be told there were no free lines and a five-year waiting list.

Incidentally, as Veiled pointed out, we do tend to forget the grotesque inefficiences of Western countries. To get a police certificate in Canada you need fingerprints, and the RCMP don't find it at all untoward that you must wait at least six months, even though it means you can't take up your job. And let's not mention the lunatic results of the British hysteria over child molestation which means that to get clearance you have to wait months, and the kids are sent home from school to roam the streets so they won't be exposed to teachers without clearance in the classrooms. And as fior getting a residence visa for your wife in the UK, even if you are British!
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Joined: 28 Jun 2003
Posts: 3657
Location: Tuamago Archipelago

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with Stephen that Saudi beurocrats (the only ones I'm familiar with) aren't all that bad. Where I worked, the admin staff were almost all Saudi men, with the odd Philippino and Indian thrown in for good measure. Dealing with these guys was usually striaghtforward, as they were pleasant and willing to help - at least as long as things were going well. If not, as Mark has said, it often came down to the "Not my responsibilty - ask Mohammed next door" mentality.

This was one of the (few) areas of Saudi life where it helped to be female! Being female, you generally have no problem getting the undivided attention of Saudi men - whether you want it or not is another matter!
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Joined: 20 Feb 2003
Posts: 17633
Location: USA

PostPosted: Wed Feb 25, 2004 4:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Cleo,

I don't think that Mr Dundat was just referring to your employer's administrative staff. They are normally the least of the problem, I have found. The problems usually come from the point where things move out into the 'real bureaucracy.'

Where one encounters the real joys is when you have to figure out how much you have to do yourself - with often little help - to get that residence visa, telephone, internet hook-up, car registration, bank account and perhaps also bank loan, driving license, finding a flat, negotiating a lease, getting electricity bills, paying those various bills.

The variance comes with how much your administrative staff helps you out with the above. This can range from their happily holding your hand through the whole process to barely grudgingly providing you with the paperwork you need to do it yourself. Then there is the treatment you get from the various Ministries that are involved in finishing the process.

That is what I was attempting to rank in my analysis above. Smile I was fortunate that in all of my jobs, the administrative staffs were usually helpful. It was outside of them that the 'real fun' began.

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