Image via WikipediaThis morning I underwent the annual ritual, The Attestation of the Tenancy Contract. I have never found it so straightforward, but then I've had a decade and a half to get my act together and prepare for the process. The annual Hunting For Every Possible Document You Might Ever Need ritual having been carried out, I'm good to go down to the government office at the Sharjah Vegetable Market.
The Attestation of the Tenancy Contract ritual is characterised by two things. One is that the rules change quite frequently. The second is that whatever documents you amass, you'll always find one that you hadn't expected or known was required, resulting in a disappointed drive home to regroup for another try.
The office that deals with such things has been transformed in recent years and is now a smart, marble-floored, airconditioned building with comfortable seats and a ticketed waiting system. We are now 'customers'. The surly looking bloke at the Information Desk scanned my wodge of Every Possible Document You Might Ever Need and looked momentarily disheartened. My heart raced. Had I done it? Had I finally beaten the system?
"Landlord passport copy."
This was awful. I had an attested copy of our marriage certificate, both passport copies, last year's contract, the landlord's ownership paper, our electricity bill and a photocopy of the page in the Domesday book that mentions my family. They'd never asked for the landlord's passport copy before.
And then I realised. He was just pissed because I had every document under the sun. I looked him straight in the eye. "I don't have it."
He grunted and gave me a ticket. I couldn't believe it - I was right! And I was through! Home free! I nearly danced to the girl behind the counter when my number was called. Which is when I found out that Sarah's passport copy included her old visa and we needed her new visa. Luckily I could get it faxed over and so my documents were duly scanned into the system, a considerable amount of money jemmied out of my wallet and our tenancy duly recognised in the eyes of the law. I do like the way that a sum charged by a government based on a percentage of a transaction is referred to as a fee here - presumably so we can remain 'tax free'...
Of course, the potty thing about the whole rigmarole is that it is all completely unnecessary. The majority of these documents were issued by the government in the first place and are certainly held on multiple government systems. The most basic integration of such systems would allow databases to cross-relate each document. Even in an environment where this were not possible (for instance, because of the complete lack of integration of any government system despite years of biffling on about e-government but little actually doing anything meaningful about it), you could save an awful lot of hassle by allowing people to scan the documents and send 'em over along with payment on Visa. It wouldn't be a complicated job. It's the sort of thing the Internet has turned out to be quite good at doing...
But then I'm running before I walk again. At least we've moved forward to a single point of transaction - there used to be twelve separate, discrete steps to renewing a tenancy contract, many of which consisted of removing the staple, shuffling the papers and then restapling them. Each of those steps used to involve long queues and shuffling, jostling crowds.
And at least now we're 'customers'. Whatever that means.