Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The cost of corruption

I was listening to a piece about the Doha mall fire on the way home last night, about how this was a very new and expensive mall and that Qatar has very comprehensive safety standards so there would need to be a thorough investigation into how this happened.

Investigation's hardly necessary - anyone who's spent a few years as an ex-pat in a Gulf Arab country could tell you exactly how this happened without needing even to read a report on it.

First, those comprehensive safety standards.  I expect this is absolutely true and that Qatar's building and safety regulations are thorough and detailed.   I expect they're also "enforced" by low-ranking civil servants who piss off important Qatari property developers only at their great peril.  Everything will have been signed off by the appropriate personnel, but anything that met the standards probably did so by accident.

If it's anything like Kuwait's malls, this one will have been built on the cheap using indentured labour from the Indian subcontinent.  One witness mentioned the mall staff didn't take the fire alarm seriously, presuming it was yet another false alarm.  That was to be expected - given the nature of its construction, we can assume none of its more complex systems would have worked properly from the day it was built, including the sprinkler system.

The media has unconfirmed reports that two senior managers of the mall have been arrested.  If so, we can identify these as the two with the least wasta (influence), and my money's on them not being locals.


gravedodger said...

I understand the alarm sound was not very appropriate and when a visitor asked if it should be regarded as a request to evac was told , "nah it goes off all the time", sadly this time it was serious.

Anonymous said...

So the reality of the monuments to Arab money we see on Discovery isn't quite reality?


Psycho Milt said...

Well, the buildings are real enough, and when you walk around them you don't notice anything about them that would suggest they're lower quality than a similar building in a western country. But you're also well aware that corruption and influence-peddling are the norm so any certification the building has should be regarded as no more than a piece of paper until proved otherwise.

There was a lot of building going on in my neighbourhood in Kuwait, and the expats who knew about construction would shake their heads at how little steel was going into the supposedly steel-reinforced concrete. The work was all done by indentured labour, and my daughter got to watch a Bangladeshi die after he fell off the pile of sticks that pass for scaffolding in the local building industry. High quality isn't a likely outcome of building practices like that, and we were used to things not working properly and bodged repairs by people with only a vague idea of what they were doing.