Attitudes Matter

Attitudes Matter

The Gulf countries undoubtedly are welfare states. Compared to many other countries, the standard of service in the region is mostly good.

However, like in any welfare situation, you need to be patient when you deal with civil servants. Their attitude is different and they work according to rules they set themselves.I am not attempting to compare workers in the private sector and civil servants but the gap between the two sectors never gets smaller. When I walked to my local municipality office, I immediately knew that there were some changes. The place looked different and the queue was longer. For a start, the reception was bigger because the partitions that separated three rooms were removed. The three windows serving visitors were replaced by just one.

I was there to get a copy of my house plan but I had to queue up with people who came for planning permission, extension of their houses, sewerage problems and everything else. It took me two hours to see the clerk. His only job was to file my request and asked me to pay a fee to a cashier at a different room. Another queue waited for me and it took another half-an-hour for my turn. I paid the money and he asked me to go to another clerk who had a window at the back of the building. You guessed right. Although the queue there was smaller, I had to wait for a quarter of an hour to see him. He looked at the receipt lazily and gave me an appointment. I looked at the appointment card and sighed aloud. It was two weeks later.

A fortnight on, I was back on the queue thinking the ordeal was almost over. Forty minutes of queuing up and the clerk, after consulting his computer, said that the copy of my planning permission was not ready.In frustration, I asked, “what happens now?”“Give it another three days,” he said and dismissed me.

I decided to go and see the director to pour my grievances at him. I was not surprised to find that his office had, at least, a dozen people waiting to see him. They all had complaints. His secretary looked at me as if I was a nuisance and said, “you will have to come tomorrow. There are too many people ahead of you”.I asked for an appointment but he simply shook his head. “Just turn up as early as possible. It is first come first serve around here.” I was not in the mood to argue. I left and tried to salvage whatever I could from the lost day.

I thought I should call my wife, perhaps she had something to cheer me up. My mobile had a message for me.It was disconnected. How could it be? Though I was late for one month but I paid the bill only a couple of days ago. Armed with the receipt, I proceeded to the billing agents to demand an explanation.  “Nothing to do with us,” he told me, “we send all the paid bills to the telephone company on a daily basis. They are too slow to update their records”.

He promised I would be re-connected within half-an-hour but you guessed right again. My mobile and home telephones stayed dead for 24 hours. I was a little depressed and I also felt a little bit under the weather. My wife suggested a trip to the local health centre.“No thanks,” I told her,” I would get something from the pharmacy”.I had enough with civil servants. As for my planning permission, I waited another couple of weeks to get it.