Friday, January 13, 2012

Three Cheers for American Bureaucracy!

Our country director sent out her weekly update today. In it was a link to the FVAP – Federal Voting Assistance Program. It’s a program designed to help Americans living overseas in the armed forces or any other capacity exercise their right to vote. I went online and filed my request for absentee ballots for all of the elections in my voting district for the upcoming year. I was able to select a preferred method of delivery – email, mail, or fax. It was simple and fast – about two minutes.
Except for applying for passports, I didn’t have many encounters with government bureaucracy until I reached the age of 65. Then came Medicare and, a year later, Social Security. I have to say that all my dealings with those agenciess have been positive. Efficient, friendly, helpful, and respectful people and pretty straightforward and clear procedures. And now this. It’s enough to make a citizen happy.
I compare that with my experience here in Morocco.
After I was sworn in as a Peace Corps Volunteer last May, I had to apply for a carte de sejour (residence permit). That required 10 passport sized photos (can’t imagine why, since the card itself has only one), an equivalent number of photocopies of my passport, attestation de travail (work certificate) and attestation de residence (certificate of residence), several tax stamps, three trips to the Royal Police office (gendarmerie), and one to the city hall to get all of them notarized. After I finished the application, I received a receipt, which I had to carry with me at all times. During the period while I was waiting for my card, I had to return and get the receipt renewed every month. That took five months, which meant five more visits to the gendarmerie. For me, that meant only about three hours out of my day each time. I’m fortunate. For some of my Peace Corps friends, that means a whole day and travel by bus or taxi to a distant city. I’m also required to inform the gendarmes whenever I’m going to be away from my site overnight.
So I say, “Three cheers for the American bureaucracy!” It’s a snap compared to what I face here.
P.S., I didn’t really forget that I have an encounter with the bureaucracy every year on April 15. I’m not really looking forward to filing my taxes from Morocco for the first time, but I actually think it’s going to go all right. Filing taxes is not so straightforward. Like many people, I get help with it. But, you know, that’s not really the fault of the bureaucracy. It’s the fault of those politicians who, as either policy or payback, have created all the windfalls and loopholes in the tax code.

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