Wasta – the Arabic term for nepotism or using personal connections to obtain government jobs and services – is the focus of this chapter. Not all wasta is bad, and some forms are culturally acceptable: it may refer to the use of legitimate intermediaries, but bad wasta, that is, corruption, is condemned by the Quran. A legacy of tribalism, the phenomenon is ubiquitous in the Arab world. The authors use a game-theoretic approach to understand why some people use wasta and others do not, concluding that corrupt institutions promote the bad forms. Thus, as bribery becomes increasingly normalized, control of corruption becomes ever more difficult. The authors conclude by situating Arab corruption within an international dataset that reveals that while the prevalence of bribery in the Arab world is not significantly greater than most of the world, attempts to control it have enjoyed less success.
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