One of the reasons that Tunisians overthrew their president this week was the level of corruption by the president and those around him (along with unemployment, closures, poverty…) – a level that was s worrying that the US Ambassador to Tunisia, Robert Godec, wrote a secret memo (released by Wikileaks) condemning the President’s rising corruption. However, Tunisia was by far not the most corrupt country. It scored a 4.3 out of 10 (10 being least corrupt) and ranking 59th of 178 countries on the 2010 Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index while nearby Kuwait was only five spots higher with a corruption level of 4.3. Both countries found themselves less corrupt than Italy (3.9 – 67th), Brazil (3.7 – 69th), Greece (3.5 – 78th), and neighboring Algeria (2.9 – 105th). Greece and Algeria both have major economic and employment problems as well (like Tunisia) which resulted in major protests around both countries. Italy and Brazil both have the occasional outcry, but are by and large considered stable. Kuwait seems just fine.
So why did Ben Ali fall and not Kuwait’s Emir Sheikh Sabah al Ahmed al Jaber al Sabah? Perhaps it has something to do with the lavishness and style of Tunisian corruption vs, well, the oil money of Kuwait. Take the following two stories as a fun comparison:
- [tweetmeme] Leila Trabelsi, the wife of the disposed Ben Ali, is reported to have taken 1.5 metric tonnes of gold bullion out of the Bank of Tunisia hours before fleeing the country. Apparently, Trabelsi simply walked into the bank with a group of her staff and ordered the bank to hand over the gold – worth around $60 million – ‘for safe keeping.’ Her whereabouts are unknown, though Ben Ali is known to be taking cover in Saudi Arabia. The daughters of the ex-president went to Disneyland Paris (yes, I know) for asylum, before being informed by the French government that they were not welcome: “Nesrine, who, with her husband, Sakhr, had kept a pet tiger, moved with her sister Halima into a series of suites at the Castle Club hotel with a retinue of servants and bodyguards.” They had a pet Tiger.
- Moving to Kuwait, where 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of independence, 20th anniversary of the country’s liberation from Iraq and the 5th anniversary of the Sheikh’s reign. To mark the celebration, the Kuwaiti government has decided to give every Kuwaiti citizen 1000 Kuwaiti dinars (around $3,500) to improve the living conditions in the country.
To be fair, Tunisia certainly does not have the oil wealth of Kuwait, meaning I am comparing apples to billionaire oil sheikhs, but, in any event, it provides for some interesting news. Though I do enjoy how the Ben Ali daughters chose Euro Disney as their asylum. Good choice.
In other news that has been completely overlooked by the events in Tunisia, there are more problems in Sudan with its possible split as opposition leaders are being arrested. In Turkey, meanwhile, an ex-military man has decided to start a militia group to fight and kill Kurdish separatists. The army officer, Colonel Arif Dogan, has decided to call the group Hezbollah – with no connection to the Lebanese group that may or may not be undermining the Lebanese state.
Photo from wtpotum