This is an interesting piece by Tengku Razaleigh in his blog but at the same time puzzling. It is puzzling because, it seems that everyone, including the politicians themselves are fully cognizant of the problems and the inherent implications of corruption on the economy/growth of the country, but it never seems to subside or able to stop it. So where do we start and how do we go about addressing it if its already ingrained in the culture of the political system .....?
Please read on the piece from Tengku Razaleigh ....
The word “corruption” comes from a Latin word meaning “to break” or “to destroy”. Corruption is a cancer that steals from the poor, eats away at governance and moral fibre, and destroys trust. Although corruption exists in both the private and public sector, the corruption of the public sector is a more fundamental evil. This is because the public sector is the enforcer and arbiter of the rules that hold us together, the custodians of our common resources.
Corruption is the abuse of public office for personal gain.
• Corruption exacts a huge toll on our economy
o In a survey of more than 150 high ranking public officials and top citizens from over 60 developing nations, these officials ranked corruption as the biggest obstacle to development and growth in their countries.
o Corruption empties out the public purse, causes massive misallocation of resources, dampens trade and scares away investors
o The World Bank estimates that corruption can reduce a country’s growth rate by 0.5 to 1 percentage points per year. Where there is a lack of transparency and a weak court system, investors stay away.
o Corruption is a form of theft. But it is a form of theft that also damages what is not stolen. This is because corruption involves the capture of decisions involving public funds. Corrupt decisions mis-allocate public resources and cause tremendous waste in the expenditure of public money. Public money is poured down the drain when projects are selected not because of the value they deliver to the public but because of what can be skimmed from them.
• But corruption is more than an economic cost. It is a curse that attacks the root of the tree. Corruption destroys trust, which is nothing less than the glue holding a society and its institutions together. When it becomes rampant and is conducted with impunity, it also demoralizes even those public servants not involved in it. The common people’s experience with government breeds the expectation that they need to pay before things will move. Small businesses suffer as city hall officials come on their rounds to collect mandatory “donations.”
It is time we recognized corruption as the single biggest threat to our nation. In our economy, corruption is the root of our inability to to make the economic leap that we know we are capable of. There is no other reason why a country so blessed with natural resources, a favourable climate and such immense talent should not have done a lot better than we have.
In our political system, corruption is the real reason why our political parties refuse to reform. In the party I belong to it has debased a once noble nationalism and a concern with the welfare of marginalised people into a rush for the gravy train. The economic development we must bring our people is reduced to nothing more than patronage, and patronage is inflated into a right.
The root cause is in our political parties. It is an open secret that tender inflation is standard operating procedure. Within the parties and among politicians, it is already an understood matter that party followers must be ‘fed’. Politics is an expensive business, after all. Where else are we to get the funds? Thus theft of public goods is normalised and socialised among an entire community, and what we had planned to attain by capability is seen by some as something to be attained through politics.
Politicians are the villains in this piece, but they themselves the villains but they themselves are also trapped. The leadership is trapped because they are beholden to political followers who demand that they are looked after. They demand patronage, and the turn the party’s struggle for the welfare of a community into their sense of entitlement to that patronage. So they take their slice of the project. By the time they they and each person down the line all the way down to the contractor takes a lot and there is not enough left to do a decent job, bridges collapse, highways crack, stadiums collapse, hospitals run out of medicine, schoolchildren are cheated in their textbooks. Corruption may look to its perpetrators like a crime without victims, but it leaves a trail of destruction.