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     Volume 8 Issue 53 | January 16, 2009 |

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View from the Bottom

The Phenomenon called Corruption

Shahnoor Wahid

If you recall, you will notice that in the last twelve years, we have talked more on corruption in politics, business and administration than anything else during our waking hours. We haven't talked as much on improvement of education standards, health care services, food quality, scientific research, crop diversification, social development and so on. Rather, we were amazed and flabbergasted by the range, variety and intensity of corruption in politics, and how politics helped sustain and flourish corruption in all the other conceivable sectors. Our newspapers devoted 80 percent of space reporting and writing on corruption as there was nothing else, or nothing worthwhile to write about.

In the last 12 years political corruption came of age and gained mind-boggling mileage thanks to the ingenuity of the later-day corrupt politicians and corrupt bureaucrats. The two together made a lethal concoction that knocked the sense out of the nation. The autocratic regimes of the pre-1990 era actually had begun the process of corrupting politics and administration through adopting various means and ploys. And the process was honed to perfection after 1990 during the so-called democratic regimes of the two major political parties of the country. It no doubt reached the peak during the four-party alliance government immediately before 1/11/2007. This government had engineered the 14th amendment of the constitution and influenced a thoroughly corrupt Election Commission to prepare a fabricated voters list to stage an engineered election. A section of corrupt bureaucrats had helped the government in almost materialising its dream.

But we must agree that political corruption is not native to Bangladesh. You will find it in every country, in every society, in every community, from China to Chile, from America to Azerbaijan, from Korea to Kansas. The other day we were amused reading the report of Illinois (USA) governor having abused power and making efforts to auction off president-elect Barack Obama's senate for personal gain. Then, more recently, the Baltimore (USA) mayor has been indicted on financial misappropriation and perjury charges.

So, why blame our very own mayors who siphoned off a few crores from here and there? Why shouldn't they? Can't you see that it was done as the most effective step towards poverty alleviation? If their mayors can do it, why can't our mayors do the same? So stop calling our mayors 'thief of Baghdad' or anything else when many such thieves are roaming the first world?

Experts say that the political corruption is kleptocracy, meaning rule by thieves. Another source says that bribery around the world is estimated at about $1 trillion (£494bn). About unholy alliance of corrupt politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen Theodore Roosevelt had to say this:

"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."

Measuring corruption
According to Wikipedia: "Measuring corruption statistically is not a straightforward matter, since the participants are generally not forthcoming about it. Transparency International, a leading anti-corruption NGO, provides three measures, updated annually: a Corruption Perceptions Index (based on experts' opinions of how corrupt different countries are); a Global Corruption Barometer (based on a survey of general public attitudes toward and experience of corruption); and a Bribe Payers Survey, looking at the willingness of foreign firms to pay bribes.

The World Bank collects a range of data on corruption, including a set of indicators of governance and institutional quality. Moreover, one of the six dimensions of governance measured by the Worldwide Governance Indicators is Control of Corruption, which is defined as "the extent to which power is exercised for private gain, including both petty and grand forms of corruption, as well as 'capture' of the state by elites and private interests." Based on this definition the Worldwide Governance Indicators project has developed aggregate measurements for the level of control of corruption in more than 200 countries.

The ten countries perceived to be least corrupt, according to the 2007 Corruption Perceptions Index, are Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden, Iceland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Canada, and Norway.

According to the same survey, the nine countries perceived to be most corrupt are Somalia, Myanmar, Iraq, Haiti, Uzbekistan, Tonga, Sudan, Chad, and Afghanistan.

In the U.S., the top five most corrupt states are Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Alabama, and Ohio, according to a 2007 study by Corporate Crime Reporter (based on U.S. Department of Justice data on public convictions).

Well, I wonder whether corruption that has percolated to every department of politics, business and bureaucracy in our country can be easily removed by anybody or any government. Like termites it is eating the moral fabric from within. We need a magic potion to exterminate it.

.Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2009