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Old Friday, April 29, 2005
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Default essay on corruption(part one)


The scourge of corruption and white-collar crimes has become a cause of serious concern. Corruption is a menace that can never be eliminated completely from society. Some traces of corruption always exist in every society. The extent of such corruption in each is inversely proportional to the level of justice, accountability and indiscriminate application of law. As long as injustice and poverty prevail one cannot hope to eradicate corruption. A society based on the rule of law and equality caters for the genuine needs and wants of its members. But a society where the rule of law is absent, the vacuum is filled by the rule of nuisance value. The rights, privileges and respect in such a society depend upon how much you can browbeat a man or woman. One may acquire an official position by virtue of which one is able to cause harm to others or to give them favour and advantage.

Corruption inducted by the government functionaries or the corporate managers damages both national character and the economy. But what hurts the common man is the bribery he confronts at every step. He is required to pay not to get an undue advantage but more often, just to avoid harassment, injustice or delay. Thus it has become extortion – ever worse than bribe. Tragically, bribe is no longer viewed as a perversion of integrity. It is a necessity or need for both its giver and taker. For its wide gamut and many forms, the pithiest definition of corruption one come across is “the abuse of public office for private gain”. Corruption has become a way of life and it permeates every segment of our society. It is not endemic to the public sector alone but extends to private life as well. Defining corruption as a disease is wrong since it really is a symptom of a wider malaise. It is now a pervasive evil.

Corruption prevails all over the world equally in developed and developing countries. The level of corruption may vary between developed and developing countries but it cannot be restricted only to the developing and poor countries. The series of scandals surfaced recently in the United States indicate that corporate leaders can also be spectacularly corrupt. The intricate and much touted regulatory system that oversaw the working of the American corporations turned out not to be strong enough to prevent Enron, Global Crossing, Tyco and WorldCom from indulging in immensely corrupt practices and for a reputable accounting firm Anderson to sanction them. The crimes committed by these corporations were big and punishable. So corruption is not unique to the developing world. It is clearly understood that any deviation from the conduct or behaviour permitted by law will be punished. And punishment will be consistent with the magnitude of the committed crime. However, this relationship between crime and punishment often breaks down. It collapses when legal and regulatory systems become dysfunctional. This happens when the power of the strong cannot be constrained by the weak. This is exactly what happened in America’s go-go capitalism. Here the power wielded by corporate boards and corporate executives was considerably greater than that exercised by common shareholders and common consumers.

Undeniably, poor and developing countries are more prone to corruption. Lack of rule of law, inequality, injustice and bad governance cause vulnerability to moral and financial corruption eventually. This time it is Bangladesh, which leads the list, followed by Nigeria in Africa, Indonesia in South East Asia, and Azerbaijan in Central Asia. This list is drawn up by Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based organization, on the basis of the perception of foreign businessmen and fifteen surveys from nine independent institutions. Not all the branded countries are as poor as Bangladesh, which tops the list. Nigeria is truly oil rich and yet it is often listed as the first, second or third most corrupt country. This year its position is second. Not that these countries are in Asia or Africa that they are poor and corrupt. Singapore, for example, is in Asia as well but happens to be the fifth least corrupt country in the world followed by Hong Kong, also in Asia, which is the fourteenth least corrupt country in a list of a hundred and two states. Corruption has thrived even in a very rich state like Kazakhstan, which has been ranked the fifteenth most corrupt state. What all that means is that the form of government or the extent of natural resources or the potential for becoming far rich does not matter. What matters is the quality of government, the kind of governance and the transparency in administration it ensures. It does help when a country is as small as Finland which tops the list of least corrupt countries followed by Denmark and New Zealand, for a small country it is necessary to have efficient administration and least corruption. Even larger federations like that of Canada and Australia and a confederation like Switzerland are able to achieve a very low level of corruption.

Pakistan ranks now twenty-third where as it was seventh in 1999 and earlier its rank swayed between two and four among the most corrupt. Corruption has struck deep roots into Pakistan’s soil. The truth is that all sections of Pakistan’s elite are involved in corruption in a big way. They included politicians, businessmen, civil bureaucrats and military officials. It is not endemic to the public sector alone but extends to private life as well. One routinely cheats, short-changes, lies, adulterates and acts in myriad other dishonest ways. It is not at all doubtful that Pakistan’s private sector or corporate sector is morally and ethically compromised and subscribes to corrupt practices in what is a corrupt and bankrupt environment.

Corruption is not a simple phenomenon. It is a complex structure of many forms prevalent in our society at different levels starting from a ruler to a layman. The first type is “speed money”. Speed money is used to move the file quickly, to combat inefficiency and red-tapism both planned and inherent. The second type is “collusive corruption” in interpreting existing laws and regulations, and in formulating new laws or amending existing ones to provide benefits to an individual or a certain group. The third type is sanctioning and writing-off heavy loans by the banking authorities without proper or any analysis. Nonpayment of taxes is the fourth category. All rulers, officials and businessmen are defamed for their tax evasion. CBR officials, themselves provide consultation for evading taxes against their palm greasing. Businessmen, industrialists, traders, importers and exporters take full advantage of this blessing. They save duties by over and under invoicing of their imports and exports, while growers and manufacturers within the country seek subsidies for their sole benefits. It is a brief view of the forms of corruption. State-sponsored and private profit based bonds and schemes for extortion of money and whitener schemes of money raised by smuggling, drug-trafficking etc. are some other examples. Allotment of plots, arable lands and pastures to their favourites and high-ranking officials are another form of corruption. Discretionary powers of bureaucrats to use public sector funds for development schemes and unaccountable financial pools of other law-enforcement agencies are the other side of the picture. Issuing licenses, providing securities in the form of patronage and subsidies to their near and dear ones are also common practices of the rulers and officials in Pakistan. Commissions, favours and grafts demanded by the rulers, ministers, secretaries and heads of the institutions are the latest inventions. Both Benazir and Nawaz Shrief governments were dismissed with the charges of wholesale corruption, extortion of money and abuse of powers.

Pakistan’s misfortune after Quaid-e-Azam’s death has been a string of either weak, ineffective, corrupt, demagogic, non-visionary dictatorial rulers or leaders without much exception. The continuance of all-pervasive, anachronistic and highly damaging feudal system has become a fixed frame of mind for the nation. This is in direct conflict with democracy, progress and freedom both economic and political. Total neglect of education has widespread socio-economic implications and clear-cut effects on the society’s moral fiber. This neglect is only the trend of a feudal society like ours. Constitutional acrobats of 1956, 1962, 1973 and later undemocratic amendments destroyed the system of government badly and uprooted the structural integrity. Weak political and military governments paved the way for abuse of official power, nepotism and favouritism for private gains by the civil and military officials, politicians and rulers. The masses trapped in a vicious triangle of bread, cloth and shelter are suffering inescapably. The press and electronic media are largely state-sponsored. Those who claim their freedom forget the unlimited restrictions. The press also failed to highlight the mounting corruption because state functionaries were far expert in hiding their corrupt practices; they relied on the advantage of secrecy of state and official correspondence and transaction. Distorted and weaker laws provided no authority to the judiciary and law-enforcement agencies to dispense justice and relief to the masses. So they also joined hands with the corrupt regimes and officials, and became tools of oppression, instead.
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