Corruption? NO WAY!
Posted December 16, 2008on:
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Political corruption is the use of governmental powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. Misuse of government power for other purposes, such as repression of political opponents and general police brutality, is not considered political corruption. Neither are illegal acts by private persons or corporations not directly involved with the government. An illegal act by an officeholder constitutes political corruption only if the act is directly related to their official duties.
All forms of governmen, are susceptible to political corruption. Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. While corruption may facilitate criminal enterprise such as drug trafficking, money laundering, and trafficking, it is not restricted to these organized crime activities. In some nations, corruption is so common that it is expected when ordinary businesses or citizens interact with government officials. The end point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, literally “rule by thieves”.
The activities that constitute illegal corruption differ depending on the country or jurisdiction. Certain political funding practices that are legal in one place may be illegal in another. In some countries, government officials have broad or poorly defined powers, and the line between what is legal and illegal can be difficult to draw.
Bribery around the world is estimated at about $1 trillion (£494bn), and the burden of corruption falls disproportionately on the bottom billion people living in extreme poverty.
Effects on politics, administration, and institutions
Corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections,and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; corruption in the judiciary compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the unfair provision of services. More generally, corruption erodes the institutional capacity of government as procedures are disregarded, resources are siphoned off, and public offices are bought and sold. At the same time, corruption undermines the legitimacy of government and such democratic values as trust and tolerance.
Corruption also undermines economic development by generating considerable distortions and inefficiency. In the private sector, corruption increases the cost of business through the price of illicit payments themselves, the management cost of negotiating with officials, and the risk of breached agreements or detection. Although some claim corruption reduces costs by cutting red tape, the availability of bribes can also induce officials to contrive new rules and delays. Openly removing costly and lengthy regulations are better than covertly allowing them to be bypassed by using bribes. Where corruption inflates the cost of business, it also distorts the playing field, shielding firms with connections from competition and thereby sustaining inefficient firms.
Corruption also generates economic distortions in the public sector by diverting public investment into capital projects where bribes and kickbacks are more plentiful. Officials may increase the technical complexity of public sector projects to conceal or pave way for such dealings, thus further distorting investment. Corruption also lowers compliance with construction, environmental, or other regulations, reduces the quality of government services and infrastructure, and increases budgetary pressures on government.
Economists argue that one of the factors behind the differing economic development in Africa and Asia is that in the former, corruption has primarily taken the form of rent extraction with the resulting financial capital moved overseas rather invested at home (hence the stereotypical, but often accurate, image of African dictators having Swiss bank accounts). In Nigeria, for example, more than $400 billion was stolen from the treasury by Nigeria’s leaders between 1960 and 1999. University of Massachusetts,researchers estimated that from 1970 to 1996, capital flight from 30 sub-Saharan countries totaled $187bn, exceeding those nations’ external debts. (The results, expressed in retarded or suppressed development, have been modeled in theory by economist Mancur Olson.) In the case of Africa, one of the factors for this behavior was political instability, and the fact that new governments often confiscated previous government’s corruptly-obtained assets. This encouraged officials to stash their wealth abroad, out of reach of any future expropriation. In contrast, corrupt administrations in Asia like Suharto‘s have often taken a cut on everything (requiring bribes), but otherwise provided more of the conditions for development, through infrastructure investment, law and order, etc.
Environmental and social effects
Corruption facilitates environmental destruction. Even the corrupt countries may formally have legislation to protect the environment, it cannot be enforced if the officials can be easily bribed. The same applies to social rights such as worker protection, unionization and prevention of child labor. Violation of these laws and rights enables corrupt countries to gain an illegitimate economic advantage in the international market.
As the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen,has observed that “there is no such thing as an apolitical food problem.” While drought and other naturally occurring events may trigger famine conditions, it is government action or inaction that determines its severity, and often even whether or not a famine will occur. Governments with strong tendencies towards kleptocracy can undermine food security even when harvests are good. The 20th century is full of many examples of governments undermining the food security of their own nations – sometimes intentionally.
Types of abuse
Bribery requires two participants: one to give the bribe, and one to take it. In some countries the culture of corruption extends to every aspect of public life, making it extremely difficult for individuals to stay in business without resorting to bribes. Bribes may be demanded in order for an official to do something he is already paid to do. They may also be demanded in order to bypass laws and regulations. In some developing nations, up to half of the population have paid bribes during the past 12 months.
While bribery includes an intent to influence or be influenced by another for personal gain, which is often difficult to prove, graft only requires that the official gains something of value, not part of his official pay, when doing his work. Large “gifts” qualify as graft, and most countries have laws against it. (For example, any gift over $200 value made to the President of the United States is considered to be a gift to the Office of the Presidency and not to the President himself. The outgoing President must buy it if he wants to take it with him.) Another example of graft is a politician using his knowledge of zoning to purchase land which he knows is planned for development, before this is publicly known, and then selling it at a significant profit. This is comparable to insider trading in business.
Patronage refers to favoring supporters, for example with government employment. This may be legitimate, as when a newly elected government changes the top officials in the administration in order to effectively implement its policy. It can be seen as corruption if this means that incompetent persons, as a payment for supporting the regime, are selected before more able ones. In nondemocracies many government officials are often selected for loyalty rather than ability. They may be almost exclusively selected from a particular group (for example, Sunni Arabs in Saddam Hussein‘s Iraq, the nomenklatura in the Soviet Union, or the Junkers in Imperial Germany) that support the regime in return for such favors.
Favoring relatives (nepotism) or personal friends (cronyism) is a form of illegitimate private gain. This may be combined with bribery, for example demanding that a business should employ a relative of an official controlling regulations affecting the business. The most extreme example is when the entire state is inherited, as in North Korea or Syria. A milder form of cronyism is an “old boy network“, in which appointees to official positions are selected only from a closed and exclusive social network – such as the alumni of particular universities – instead of appointing the most competent candidate.
Seeking to harm enemies becomes corruption when official powers are illegitimately used as means to this end. For example, trumped-up charges are often brought up against journalists or writers who bring up politically sensitive issues, such as a politician’s acceptance of bribes.
Embezzlement is outright theft of entrusted funds. It is a misappropriation of property.
Another common type of embezzlement is that of entrusted government resources; for example, when a director of a public enterprise employs company workers to build or renovate his own house.
A kickback is an official’s share of misappropriated funds allocated from his or her organization to an organization involved in corrupt bidding. For example, suppose that a politician is in charge of choosing how to spend some public funds. He can give a contract to a company that is not the best bidder, or allocate more than they deserve. In this case, the company benefits, and in exchange for betraying the public, the official receives a kickback payment, which is a portion of the sum the company received. This sum itself may be all or a portion of the difference between the actual (inflated) payment to the company and the (lower) market-based price that would have been paid had the bidding been competitive. Kickbacks are not limited to government officials; any situation in which people are entrusted to spend funds that do not belong to them are susceptible to this kind of corruption.
An unholy alliance is a coalition among seemingly antagonistic groups, especially if one is religious, for ad hoc or hidden gain. Like patronage, unholy alliances are not necessarily illegal, but unlike patronage, by its deceptive nature and often great financial resources, an unholy alliance can be much more dangerous to the public interest. An early, well-known use of the term was by Theodore Roosevelt.(TR):
- “To destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.” – 1912 Progressive Party Platform, attributed to TR and quoted again in his autobiography where he connects Trusts and monopolies (sugar interests, Standard Oil, etc.) to Woodrow Wilson, Howard Taft, and consequently both major political parties. Involvement in organized crime
An illustrative example of official involvement in organized crime can be found from 1920s and 1930s Shanghai, where Huang Jinrong was a police chief in the French concession, while simultaneously being a gang boss and co-operating with Du Yuesheng, the local gang ringleader. The relationship kept the flow of profits from the gang’s gambling dens, prostitution, and protection rackets undisturbed.
The United States accused Manuel Noriega‘s government in Panama of being a “narcokleptocracy“, a corrupt government profiting on illegal drug trade. Later the U.S. invaded Panama and captured Noriega.
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