Corruption is a major threat to economic progress
No one can dispute that charges and allegations of corruption have gained prominence in the national consciousness in recent years, and this has been no more apparent than in the central role they play in our politics now.
Gabriel Lall has made a start, but we all must recognise how this social malady impinges on the integrity of the public and private sectors creating the type of feeding frenzy unparalleled for media operatives who have been zealous in their investigations, and who have been placed in the same corner as political opponents out to discredit the government.
What seems to have been lost sight of is the fact that corruption is potentially the greatest threat to economic progress and should be placed as a priority item on the country’s development agenda through a non-partisan approach.
Among the more prevalent two (or more) party corrupt practices are government contracts where bribes play a significant role in who gets a contract, and in the contract and subcontracting terms. Bribes also play a major part in determining who gets to avoid ‘wasting time’ by moving things along smoothly in the granting of licences and permits to conduct legal business.
Bribes also affect the revenue stream of the country in the amount of taxes, fees, dues, customs duties and electricity and other public utility charges collected from business firms and private individuals.
Bribes have also been known to have been offered to gain access to arguably prestigious schools, acquire bogus medical status certificates, and ownership stakes in prime real estate. Furthermore, bribes have been known to provide incentives to regulatory authorities to refrain from taking action and to look the other way, when private parties engage in activities that are in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations, such as those relating to controlling pollution, preventing health hazards, or promoting public safety. Bribes can also be an inducement to favour one party over another in legal and regulatory proceedings.
With all the attention currently being paid to allegations of corruption in high places it is not unlikely that those public officials on the lower rungs are escaping detection and sanction. While there can be no moral justification for corruption high or low, it might be instructive to know the reasons proffered for these practices. The lowly public servant might claim poor pay and working conditions etc, but what excuse do those higher in the food chain have? One writer (U Myint) argues that greed and not low pay or the need to cover the living expenses of their families, is a main motivating factor, since these people are generally well-off and have a lot of privileges associated with their high office. Another factor may be a need to dispense favours, or create the type of enabling environment for corrupt practices to benefit political allies, colleagues and subordinates, and keep them cooperative and loyal.
Patrick E Mentore