We must all fight corruption in government

Jaime Jimenez, Ph.D, Deputy Executive Director for Research, Stratbase ADR Institute

Corruption is a universal evil. It spans countless countries, regardless of the level of economic development and political orientation. As the pervasiveness of corruption simply undermines all efforts attempted by a government in trying to make things better for a country, the responsibility is primarily local.

In dissecting corruption, a good starting point is to ascertain the conditions of its existence and the consequences of its perpetration. Kimberly Ann Elliot of the Peterson Institute for International Economics, in her section of the book, Corruption and the Global Economy (1997), “Corruption as an International Policy Problem,” appropriately delineated the conditions for and the consequences of corruption.

Elliot stated that, “vying for government benefits,” corrupt practices transpire in “government procurement contracts, ranging from routine purchases of supplies to large infrastructure projects; purchase from or sales to state-owned enterprises; sales of state-owned enterprises (privatization); access to government-controlled or regulated supplies of goods (raw materials, luxury goods, etc.), credit, foreign exchange, import and export licenses, other licenses or permits; and access to government services for subsidies, such as scholarships, health care, or subsidized housing.”

The practice is also widespread of “paying to avoid costs” to circumvent regulations, taxes, prosecution (for illegal activities such as prostitution or gambling), delays, red tape and in “paying for official positions.”

As to the consequences, corruption breeds “inefficiencies” and ineffectiveness owing to “misallocation of government resources due to award of contracts to less efficient bidders; distortions in allocation of government expenditure; distortions in allocation of privatized enterprises; inappropriate or poor quality of infrastructure; undersupply of public goods such as clean air or water; incentives to create additional regulations or delays in order to collect bribes; lost national savings and lowered investment due to flight abroad of bribe capital.”

Further, “inequities” and inequalities are also created and become more pronounced as a result of “redistribution of assets from public sector to corrupt individuals” and the “redistribution from relatively poorer to relatively wealthier individuals who are more likely to have access to government officials.” More so, corruption “undermines political legitimacy” as it destroys the credibility and integrity of the leaders we have elected.

After two decades, the aforesaid conditions engendering corruption are still very relevant and, so to speak, very prevalent not only in the Philippine context but in so many other countries as well. As for the consequences, the sectors involved may indeed speak of its veracity.

Among other actors, the cudgels to whack corruption are in the clutches of the country’s leaders and its citizens.

The prime responsibility of the country’s leaders is to provide strategic leadership and promote a transparent and accountable governance. In relation to the establishment of a strong rule of law and a stable policy environment, studies also show that instability and the emergence of conflicts is attributable to corruption. According to the Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index 2012, “despite the lack of significant empirical evidence, there is a general consensus in literature to say that corruption and conflict are linked, but the direction of the causality is debated.”

Even in post-conflict and post-disaster areas, rehabilitation and reconstruction are deprived of sufficient resources which are diverted to the pockets of corrupt parties.

At the national context, security is also put at risk once stability and peace are put on the line. In this regard, institutional legitimacy plays a vital role because “corruption [h]as doubly pernicious impacts on the risk of violence, by fueling grievances and by undermining the effectiveness of national institutions and social norms” (World Bank, 2011).

The abuse of power characterized by arrogance and strongman moves are typical characteristics of authoritarian regimes wrought with patronage politics, incompetence and system-wide corruption that systematically victimizes the poorest sectors of society and even has strategic impacts to national security.

The government’s blocking maneuvers to stop the renewal of the ABS-CBN’s franchise, the allegations threatening the concession agreements of Manila Water and Maynilad, and the President’s abrogation of the Visiting Forces Agreement citing irrelevant and illogical reasons, and snubbing the intelligent advice of legislators and foreign policy experts alternated with the relentless verbal invectives and threats demonstrate a caricature model of abusive power. It also begs the question, “Who will benefit from all of this?”

And aside from rechanneling responsive public services, every time any anti-poverty program, e.g. rice subsidy, or any post-disaster response and rehabilitation or any post-conflict reconstruction becomes tainted with corruption, the spirit of government helping the people dissipates and suspicion and mistrust set in.

As for us citizens, we must hold government leaders accountable! As the country’s thought leaders from the academe, civil society, and the media, we should be at forefront of exposing corruption and demand transparency and accountability from all of government.



This article was originally published in BusinessWorld. Image Source: Shutterstock.

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