Thursday


Money in the wrong hands


Saleh Al Shaibany

A smartly dressed middle aged man was standing next to his very expensive car. I recognised him right away. He was the gentleman who was responsible of giving away authorities' fund to the needy. Wild stories usually circulate about him and his department. Wild stories that are based on truth rather than fiction. I hear that he had four guards and three secretaries shielding him from people who daily went to his office for money.

Facts show that at least OMR20 million a year of  the fund are supposed to be given away to citizens who needed cash. His signature was most sought after. Yet, we hear that his department gives the bulk of the money to people who never need it. He would say to people that it was given on priority bases depending on the need. They would say that his priority list was made by his staff and consists the names of relatives and close friends.

About 70 per cent of the recipients of 'his cash' end up to people who would buy luxury items such as cars or furniture and even use it for holidays. The worse cases are that some of them would put themselves in huge debts to be bailed out by his cash.

He never asked questions why a poor person would be in a position to get a bank loan big enough to buy a house in the first place. Bank managers would never give you their money unless you have a decent security as collateral. A man who is struggling to put a plate of food in front of his children would be accused of negligence. They would tell him it is his fault. Why would he have five or six children when he knows he could not afford to keep a big family? The funny thing is that no one would ask the other person a similar question. Why would one buy an expensive house if he could not afford the repayment?

The logic of  'money givers' is more sympathetic to middle class families than the poor. The problem is that, since there is a lack of transparency, you cannot get to inspect the accounts books to see who the beneficiaries are. The money givers are the judges, juries and executors of the coffers. That evening, I stopped continuing with my business and watched the man. All kind of thoughts went in my head.

I wanted to tell every passerby who he was so he could face a panel of citizen jury right there on the street. The amazing thing was that no one recognised him. As a matter of fact, he did not attract anyone's attention. Yet, one would spend a lifetime just to get an appointment to be in his office. He was still standing there when I walked away. I told a friend the next day about him. He said seeing the 'money giver' on the street is like being asked for three wishes. I just blew up my chance, he said. In his exasperation, he told me that 'blessings go to the wrong person'. Maybe so but I would not be seen begging in the street to a man with a question of moral hanging over his head.

Well, I am not sure what would happen to him and his staff when they retire. One thing is for sure.

They would not depend on their pensions in the same way they don't depend on their wages now. They would also be replaced by people who would follow the same method of changing the meaning of priority by favouring the middle class.

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