The open secret was that to do business in Saudi Arabia, bribes had to be paid. It was such an open secret the King of Saudi Arabia mentioned it to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, who then included it in his memoirs. Put another way, there was a reason that Transparency International ranked the Kingdom at 62 of the 176 countries listed in its most recent Corruption Perceptions Index. Yet most western companies simply chalked it up as the cost of doing business in the Kingdom and its oil riches.
While the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act focuses on the bribe payor, there is always another side to bribery and corruption, which is of course the demand side. Buried within the demand side is the country which suffers from the effects of systemic corruption. Saudi Arabia certainly falls into that category, even if it is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Now reports have started to come out about how the ordinary citizens of the country feel about the corruption crackdown. It is certainly an interesting perspective.
While many take the western view that this is simply a consolidation of power within the monarchy, the move is still welcomed by many. This is because graft and corruption had become so pervasive that it was viewed by many as the norm. One commentator was quoted that ““The motive is that he wants to consolidate power. We don’t judge the motive. We judge the actions. And it’s a great move. Nobody could defend corruption.”” He added that “nobody could defend corruption.”
That final statement could well be the epitaph of many of the Saudi princes locked in the guiled cage of a Four Seasons in the country. Yet it also mirrors the Chinese corruption crackdown as the laws against bribery and corruption were always there and when the government gets the political will to enforce the laws, those who have been violating it are subject to the ultimate sanction.