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Old Saturday, November 10, 2012
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Corruption and National Security



Transparency International's definition of corruption is the “abuse of public office for private gain”. National security, on the other hand, has two dimensions: internal and external. Internal security, in turn, has at least three dimensions: physical, economic and health security. External security is about state security or to 'maintain the survival of the state' through the use of each and every resource at the state's disposal.

Corruption can be either systemic or sporadic. Systemic corruption is “when corruption is an integrated and essential aspect of the economic, social and political system, when it is embedded in a wider situation that helps sustain it.”

Sporadic corruption, on the other hand, occurs irregularly and thus is not a big threat to national security. Corruption can also be understood as being grand, petty or political. Grand corruption takes place at the top levels where policy formulation takes place. Petty corruption, on the other hand, is “small scale, everyday corruption that takes place at the implementation end of politics.” Political corruption —sometimes used interchangeably with grand corruption— is any transaction through which 'public goods are illegitimately converted into private'. Political corruption almost always involves the highest levels of political decision-makers. Now consider the 'Three gaps theory'. This theory asserts that systemic and political corruption give rise to three gaps—legitimacy, security and capacity. Legitimacy gap comes up when the occupants of high public offices exercise authority which is not in accordance with “people's wishes, choices and expectations.” Security gap is when a government fails to provide security of life, limb and property to its citizens. Capacity gap comes into play when a government fails to provide essential public goods like dispensation of justice, provision of gas, electricity or critical municipal services. The three gaps put together become a potent threat to the internal dimension of national security.
Corruption, to be sure, is a national security issue. The worst case scenario takes roots if corruption manages to seep into the state apparatus that itself is responsible for national security.
According to the IMF, “Empirical evidence suggests that corruption lowers investment and retards economic growth to a significant extent.” Hardcore evidence exists that if a country's “corruption index improves by one standard deviation … the investment rate increases by more than 4 percentage points and the annual growth rate of per capita GDP increases by over a half percentage point.” There is evidence also that “corrupt politicians choose government projects on which it is easier to levy bribes rather than those that promise the greatest public good.”



Corruption is not just financial like bribery, embezzlement, graft or extortion. In our case cronyism ('appointment of friends to positions of authority'), patronage (recruiting on the basis of political affiliation) and nepotism (favouring relatives and friends) actually do more damage than financial corruption.

Corruption, to be sure, is a national security issue. The worst case scenario takes roots if corruption manages to seep into the state apparatus that itself is responsible for national security. A state-any state-whereby an incremental number of its citizens begin to fall below the line of poverty owing largely to political corruption is bound to become incrementally more insecure. And no army—any army—can safeguard a state's external security when internal security is under threat by systemic, grand or political corruption.
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