The way I see it, it is much more than simply passing the government budget. We have seen for the past few days how the elected officials reacted to the proposed budget by the government. With a majority vote, it was turned down because it did not include the requested salary increase budget for the average Bahraini citizen.
I haven’t really looked at the numbers, but I know in general what seems to be the problem. Let me simplify it to you and then explain where I stand in this regard.
The government is in debt, like all other government around the world, but the debt is increasing and no clear plans on how to pay the increasing debt. As you know, when the government, or people, borrow $10, they return more than that. So, it is assumed always that smart governments, or people, would try to borrow $10, invest it, make around say $13, and return $11, profiting around $2. When you multiply this number, you will see that the profit increases. So, everybody there is happy.
However, at this instant, Bahrain is not investing the money in business, but actually investing in its own people, by building more roads, more homes, more schools, and infrastructure in general. This, as Bahrain believes, is a type of investment because it won’t necessarily yield financial profit per say directly, but will allow the Bahraini citizen to become more productive and earn in return more for his increased productivity.
So the risk is there, and the government is willing to think somewhere in the future about how to make money in order to pay back the debt it has encountered to develop the island.
But the elected officials see things very differently. They see the government of Bahrain as wasting money in many programs, with some corruption here and there. For once, anyone who studied political economy, would understand that corruption is an index that would never be 0, there is always a number, either a very small one, or a very big one, and others in between.
Elected officials believe that the government is stashing money around, and perhaps ready to borrow for events and programs that do not benefit the majority, only a minority of elite individuals. They believe that diverting those amounts to increase in salaries is of a better priority than to satisfy the luxuries of a few elite.
OK, let’s agree that corruption exists, but it is not comparable to the numbers needed for salary increases. Here’s how I see it.
Salary increase is good, but it should be directly related to productivity. I do not agree that we can discuss increase in salaries without discussing increase in productivity. If the productivity now is much more than what the average Bahraini earns, then this should be discussed as well vis a vis the productivity level.
Also, in what I see, the elected officials should look closely on the government’s fiscal policies. If they were not able to request more borrowing for increased salaries, perhaps they can identify different social programs and services that can be forgotten and money from there diverted towards the salary increase program. And, if elected officials see that the government is corrupt, then they should exercise their power to stop this corruption, and save the country few bundles of cash.
Finally, I see Bahrain’s government working for the Bahraini people, but lack in efficiency and flexibility. I believe that the best way forward is not to increase debt to allow the future generations to suffer, but to institute a system that ensures efficiency and flexibility and to teach the average Bahraini how to use the current investment in infrastructure towards his/her benefit.