Information and news about corruption

Poverty and Corruption in LiberiaIn 2022, Liberia had a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) of 26 on a 100 scale, making it the fifth most corrupt country in Africa. Corruption has several links to poverty. Forbes explains that “poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty. Corruption both causes and thrives upon weaknesses in key economic, political and social institutions.” Considering the connection that exists between poverty and corruption in Liberia, several organizations are taking action to address corruption in the country.

Poverty and Corruption in Liberia

Corruption impacts the distribution of resources in a country, stiffens economic growth and slows down poverty reduction rates. On top of this, corruption “reduces the state’s ability to provide quality public services.” It is also one of the causes of decreased spending on the pro-poor plan rolled out in 2018 when current President George Weah took office.

As it stands, Liberia notes a high poverty rate. About 44% of Liberians lived below the poverty line in 2020, according to the United Nations Development Programme, and a quarter of the population suffered severe multidimensional poverty. High rates of poverty in Liberia are the result of two deadly civil wars the country observed from 1989-1997 and 1999-2003 and are compounded by low levels of education along with corruption, among other issues.

The people of Liberia feel that the police force is the most corrupt institution, followed by the government. However, these perceptions decreased between 2015 and 2019. Corruption in Liberia has in fact reduced. From 2015 to 2019, the overall bribery rate decreased from 69% to 53%. Public educational bribery dropped by 5% in this period and public health bribery dropped by almost 10%.  Among the police force, bribery declined from 60% to 42%. These improvements are in part due to the work of organizations aiming to address corruption in Liberia.

2 Organizations Addressing Corruption in Liberia

  1. Student Unification Party (SUP). “Twelve years later and its legacy is corruption.” These are the words of a Vanguard Student Unification Party (SUP) member on July 21, 2022, during a rally announcing upcoming plans to halt corruption in Liberia. SUP is a political ideology group that gained prominence in the late 1970s following Liberia’s historical rice riots. The student-led organization is born out of the University of Liberia and has made headlines for its bountiful demonstrations, petitions and pleas to the state. Last year, SUP arranged a string of protests disputing rising food, transportation and gas prices — an incident that uncannily resembled Liberia’s past events. SUP’s “Fix The Country Campaign” is a recent attempt to address corruption in Liberia. As SUP celebrated its 52nd anniversary on December 9, 2022, SUP stressed the importance of implementing new strategies that could eradicate corruption once and for all.
  2. Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition. The Liberia CSOs Anti-Corruption Coalition (LCACC) was founded in 2019 with the help of USAID. LCACC aims to increase accountability for corruption and create a more transparent government. More than 60 young emerging leaders from West Africa participate in the Anti-Corruption Ambassador Training Program where they receive mentoring from other activists working to eradicate corruption in Liberia. Grassroots advocacy is used to foster fiscal transparency, political advocacy and natural governance.

In Liberia, corruption impacts several aspects of society and deepens conditions of poverty. However, the overall rate of corruption in Liberia has the potential to significantly decrease as these organizations continue to take action.

– Dorothy Quanteh
Photo: Flickr

Argentina’s battle against corruptionSince the dawn of democracy in Argentina in 1983, corruption has proved a serious issue, threatening public confidence in politics as well as the economic welfare of the country’s people. Throughout the 1990s, “patronage and partisanship” plagued public administration with politicians pursuing their own “modus operandi” and authority remaining in the hands of the few and fortunate. In a country where almost 40% of the population lived in conditions of poverty during the last six months of 2022, addressing corruption in Argentina is crucial in the fight against poverty.

Corruption and Poverty in Argentina

Today, corruption remains a sizeable problem. According to a Latinobarómeter study from 2017, 35% of Argentines “would tolerate a certain amount of corruption” if it resolved some of the problems in the country. Until recently, corruption was quasi-permissible, with a lack of clear bidding rules leading to infamous cases such as that of former President Cristina Fernández de Kircher, who authorities sentenced to six years for a $1 billion public works fraud case in 2022. Administrative systems have suffered such dysfunction that simple processes like obtaining a birth certificate have required extended periods of waiting.
Corruption and poverty are interlinked, and thus, Argentina’s battle against corruption is congruent with its battle against poverty. Internally, corruption generates governmental inefficiency as corrupt agendas invariably incur a lack of foresight and cooperation to bring what is best for the state and all its people. Internationally, corruption deters private investment as prospective venture capitalists are frightened by high levels of risk. Both of these ultimately damage the economy, and in doing so, impact the most poverty-ridden demographics.

In an interview with the Finance and Development magazine, and initiative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), head of anti-corruption in Argentina, Laura Alfonso, explains how corruption deepens poverty. “People living in poverty are victims of corruption because it generates, along with inefficiency and poor administration of the state, low-quality public services and infrastructure investment, which directly affects the quality of life of these people.” She says further, “The first victims of corruption are always those most in need. They are also deprived of new employment opportunities, because we all know that corruption is, sadly, a factor that deters quality private investment.”

Successes in Fighting Corruption

Fortunately, former President Mauricio Macri’s government (2015-2019) has bolstered Argentina’s battle against corruption. Argentina’s battle against corruption has had two fronts, legislative and administrative.

In terms of administrative reform, the creation of the Ministry of Modernization in 2015 has made invaluable headway, according to the IMF. An autonomous organism with national outreach, the ministry collaborates closely with government agencies and local authorities to develop transparency and legitimacy. Since its conception, administrative modernization has led to the digitalization of files, making management more transparent and thus reducing corruption.

Data is now available online, meaning the “affidavits of the 45,000 executive branch civil servants” are openly available, according to the IMF. Argentina stands as the only nation that publishes such information openly, with yearly updates. As a result, the government and its officials have had more accountability for vis-à-vis government spending and whether funding is leveraged to reduce poverty.
The ministry has also modernized human resources, with public officials now having a greater opportunity for training and progression as well as more transparency with regard to wages, contracts and the recruitment process, all in a bid to foster more professionalism, according to the Centre for Public Impact.

Legislative Reform

In terms of legislative progress in Argentina’s battle against corruption, the country made a significant breakthrough in March 2018 when the government brought Law No. 27401 into effect. The law modified the Argentina Criminal Code (ACC) and gave greater power to prosecutors regarding corruption. For instance, the law allows criminal liability for legal persons “even when the individual who had intervened in the alleged crime could not be identified.”

Turning the Tide

The legislative and administrative initiatives the government enacted over the past few years made definitive headway in Argentina’s battle against corruption. In 2016, Argentina climbed from 54th position to 17th in the Global Open Data Index, and since 2015, more than 70% of provinces in Argentina adopted the Federal Commitment for the Modernisation of the State. Argentina now possesses a singular, “centralized website for public sector job opportunities” and citizens have online access to a guide of more than 7,500 government administrative processes.
Importantly, since 2015, the nation’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index has improved, moving from 32 to 45 in just four years, before a slight decrease to 38 in 2021 and 2022. Though this remains a low score relatively, the country is making quantifiable improvements nonetheless with a moderate level of stability.

A Brighter Future

Argentina still remains a nation divided over corruption. Fissures over corruption are still visible, explaining why despite improvements, the nation still ranks relatively low on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Improvements in corruption nonetheless bring hope to Argentina and other nations suffering similarly that a single political incumbency, aided by unilateral cooperation from regional and national authorities, can achieve marked improvement.

– Gabriel Gathercole
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Developing CountriesIn many developing countries, corruption poses a major impediment to social development, economic expansion and effective governance. Corruption in these nations can occur in several ways, including bribery, embezzlement, nepotism and fraud. Weak legal systems, bad governance, a lack of transparency and poverty stand as some of the key factors that contribute to corruption in developing nations. According to the United Nations, corruption costs the world more than $2.6 trillion annually, which further undermines efforts to reduce poverty.

One of the consequences of corruption is that it can divert resources away from important social initiatives, such as health care and education programs. Moreover, corruption can prevent foreign investment and restrict a nation’s access to international assistance and support.

Addressing Corruption

The United Nations Office on Drugs (UNODC) says addressing corruption in developing countries requires a comprehensive approach that includes strengthening legal and institutional frameworks, promoting transparency and accountability and encouraging citizen participation. Governments can accomplish this by taking steps to strengthen anti-corruption legislation and regulations, increasing accountability in the public sector and giving civil society organizations and the media more authority to observe government operations.

International organizations have created anti-corruption conventions and agreements that encourage countries to combat corruption. For example, the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) seeks to address the key governance issues and provide transparency in the extractive sectors such as oil, gas and mineral resources.

Continued Struggles With Corruption

According to Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), which measures perceptions of corruption in the public sector of 180 countries and territories, many developing nations continue to struggle with corruption. The CPI uses a scale of zero (extremely corrupt) to 100 (extremely clean) to measure this.

“The global average remains unchanged for over a decade at just 43 out of 100” on the CPI scale. Furthermore, 26 nations now have the lowest scores ever noted and more than 66% of nations have received ratings below 50. Across the world, 155 nations have barely progressed in reducing corruption or have seen a deterioration since 2012 despite sustained efforts. The 2022 CPI, therefore, shows that most countries are failing to reduce corruption.

Efforts to Fight Corruption

Civil society organizations and the media play an important role in exposing corruption and holding government officials accountable. Many countries have worked to strengthen civil society and media engagement in anti-corruption efforts.

International aid and support can help countries build the capacity to address corruption by providing technical assistance, training and financial support.

There are many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that are actively working to combat corruption in developing nations:

  • Transparency International: Transparency International is a non-governmental organization that focuses on combating corruption and promoting transparency in government and business internationally. It began its journey in 1993 with a Secretariat in Berlin, Germany. The organization works to raise awareness about the negative effects of corruption on society, promote accountability and integrity and advocate for reform and policies that will promote transparency and good governance.
  • The Accountability Lab: The Accountability Lab focuses on building networks of change-makers who work to promote accountability and good governance in their communities. The organization provides training, mentoring and resources to these individuals to help them develop their skills and implement such projects effectively.
  • The International Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL): The ICNL supports governments and civil society organizations to promote good governance, enhance transparency and establish legal frameworks. It provides legal advice and technical support. The ICNL supports the development and implementation of laws and policies that would enable civil society to thrive.

Prioritizing Anti-Corruption Efforts

Corruption remains a significant challenge in many developing countries and is a major obstacle to economic growth, social development and good governance. It continues to undermine public trust in government institutions while perpetuating poverty and inequality. Considering the links between poverty and corruption, anti-corruption initiatives designed to address issues of economic growth, income inequality, governance capacity, government services in health care and education and public trust in government are likely to reduce corruption along with poverty.

– Lauryn Defreitas
Photo: Flickr

Rule of Law in the Philippines The Philippines faces a multitude of challenges due to pervasive corruption in the government, which includes extrajudicial killings, targeted attacks on journalists and a lack of accountability among those in positions of power. This erosion of the rule of law in the Philippines has far-reaching consequences, particularly in exacerbating poverty throughout the country. As the rule of law weakens, officials and politicians manipulate the legal system for their personal benefit, leading to the misallocation of funds meant to benefit the poor.

Against this backdrop, there is a growing demand for justice and accountability in the country. Recent statistics on poverty have underscored the urgent need to address these issues and restore the rule of law in the Philippines. Estimates show that national poverty increased from 16.7% in 2018 to 18.1% in 2021.

By strengthening the rule of law, the Philippines can begin to restore its democracy and ensure that resources benefit all members of society. Rule of law is a crucial factor in determining a country’s economic and social well-being. The weakening of institutions can impede the development of a democratic society that promotes socialization and inclusivity. In turn, extractive institutions that do not adhere to the rule of law breed a culture of inequality and poverty.

The Current State of the Rule of Law

The Philippines is experiencing a decline in its Rule of Law Index score, as the World Justice Project reported. The score decreased by 2.9% from last year, ranking the Philippines 102nd out of 139 countries. Key metrics that make up the rule of law index, such as order and security, criminal justice and fundamental rights that citizens hold, have shown continued deterioration.

The Philippines is also increasingly corrupt, according to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI). The country ranks 116th out of 180 countries in 2022, up from 113th in 2020.

In 2019, reports indicated the loss of an estimated 700 billion pesos in the country due to corruption, leading to further deprivation among the poor. Instead of the funds going toward economic production or social welfare, aid and education, the money was lost to government corruption.

Duterte’s war on drugs is an example of the deterioration of the rule of law in the Philippines. Starting in 2016, Duterte’s violent anti-drug operations have been responsible for extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations. Recent estimates suggest that more than 36,000 deaths have occurred in the name of the drug war, with blatant disregard for the due process of law.

The COVID-19 pandemic worsened corruption in the Philippines in 2020. Several high-ranking officials were accused of siphoning off millions of pesos from the government’s pandemic response budget, leading to outrage and calls for accountability. Although the government did hold some officials accountable for their actions, corruption remains a pervasive issue in the country.

Poverty in the Philippines

The Philippines possesses abundant human and natural resources and had been experiencing continuous economic growth since 1985. However, despite this progress, the country has yet to fully achieve its economic potential.

In 2021, according to the Asian Development Bank, roughly 19.9 million individuals lived below the poverty threshold of about 12,030 pesos monthly for a household of five and the deteriorating rule of law in the Philippines plays a significant role in perpetuating this issue. The weak justice system also creates an environment where people are less likely to trust the government and the legal system.

The weak rule of law leads to a lack of accountability for those who commit crimes and abuse their power. This results in impunity for the wealthy and powerful, who can get away with illegal activities and corruption while the poor continue to suffer. This was evident in the war on drugs as wealthy targets who could pay off vigilantes were less likely to be targeted in the first place.

The COVID-19 pandemic further worsened poverty in the Philippines, with Filipinos being even poorer today than in 2018. A staggering report by private polling firm Social Weather Station revealed that approximately 48% of the population considered themselves poor in 2022.

A Path Forward

New President Marcos Jr. has taken a strong stance against poverty, stating that he will strive to end his six-year term with a “single-digit” poverty rate. Although this goal could be difficult to achieve, it highlights the pressing nature of poverty within the country.

Despite the challenges, there are signs of progress. The Philippines government is making efforts to address the erosion of the rule of law, including investigating and monitoring human rights within the country, beginning with prosecuting corrupt politicians.

In 2019, the country passed a law to modernize and improve its court system. It also made efforts to increase transparency and accountability in government, such as establishing a Freedom of Information Order in 2016. This law gives citizens the right to access information that the government holds, with certain exceptions for national security and other sensitive matters. However, more and urgent action is necessary to protect the media, prevent extrajudicial killings and provide stronger social safety nets for the poor.

If the legal system can function effectively fairly, and impartially, it can provide the foundation needed for a government to flourish and encourage economic growth and poverty reduction. Conversely, the erosion of the rule of law can have devastating consequences for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. Therefore, it is essential that the Philippines continue to work toward strengthening its legal system and ensuring that it can function independently and impartially, for the benefit of all its citizens.

– Andrew Giganti
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Venezuela
Corruption is one of the leading contributors to poverty around the world. In Latin America, one of the most notorious examples of this dynamic is Venezuela. Ranking at a bleak 14 out of 100 by the 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index – a rank of zero means highly corrupt and 100 means very clean – Venezuela’s notorious misconduct disproportionately impacts the nation’s poor.

The Relationship Between Corruption and Poverty

Corruption interferes with various key objectives of a functional government, such as the “allocation of resources, stabilization of the economy, and redistribution of income.” These objectives influence poverty both directly and indirectly.

According to a study by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), high levels of corruption reduce “economic growth, the progressivity of the tax system, the level and effectiveness of social spending, and the formation of human capital.” This ineffective distribution of wealth results in inequalities in almost all sectors. From education to asset ownership, these ramifications are affecting corrupt nations in all stages of economic development, regardless of their growth experience.

Furthermore, poverty and corruption are interdependent forces: “poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty.” Corruption is not only a cause of poverty, it prospers in it. Weak political, economic and social institutions allow for the easy exploitation of these systems.

Poor families and economically challenged businesses have few options, particularly when corruption infiltrates all levels of authority. Even small-scale extortion, like roadblocks on farming transport routes or threats of arrest to secure bribes, ensure that the poor stay poor. What is more, in highly corrupt countries, low-level officials often find themselves underpaid, and sometimes beholden to payments to higher authorities. “In such settings, bribery, extortion and theft become matters of survival.”

Corruption in Venezuela

In Venezuela, one can see the consequences of corruption everywhere and has been prominent for years, through various leaders. In 2015, Transparency International released some of its findings concerning the nation’s corruption and subsequent human rights violations.

One investigation uncovered that a state-owned company that imported powdered milk was illegally smuggling it into Colombia, despite a nationwide powdered milk shortage of more than 90%. Both the Venezuelan and Colombian militaries and customs authorities were complicit in smuggling efforts. This powdered milk was to go to underprivileged schoolchildren.

In 2005, the Venezuelan Supreme Court invested about $12 million in the land to build a complex of nearly 300 courts in a ‘Judicial City.’ A decade later, Venezuela has not built any courthouses, and no one has been charged or prosecuted. With millions of dollars gone and nothing to show for it, many wondered where those funds went.

A few years later, $2.24 billion went toward the purchase of more than 1 million tons of food, spearheaded by Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), a state-owned oil and natural gas company that had recently taken over a program that ensures sufficient food to Venezuelans. However, reports show that little more than 25% of the food was received, and of that, “only 14% of the food was distributed to those in need.” While there were calls for investigations, no investigations occurred.

Poverty in Venezuela

Criticism of the conduct of Venezuela’s government has only worsened under the leadership of Nicolás Madura, who has been President since 2013. The 2019-2020 National Survey of Living Conditions (ENCOVI) published research detailing the deteriorating conditions of basic infrastructure, education and the labor market since 2014.

In 2020, the United Nations estimated that 25% of the total population (roughly 7 million Venezuelans) were in dire need of humanitarian assistance in the same year that ENCOVI reported that a staggering 96% of the population lived under the poverty line. Access to water and electricity is consistently declining, and reports are now showing that roughly 90% of the population is without reliable electricity.

Unemployment under Maduro’s regime has skyrocketed, leaving many that worked in the formal sector to turn to alternative sources of income, which has been shown to correspond with a “steep rise in poverty in the country.” What is more, School attendance across the nation has dropped from 12.7 million children to 11 million, as children in impoverished families often opt for work instead of school, only furthering the cycle of poverty.


While corruption in Venezuela is not new, the country has taken some steps to hold officials accountable and counter the effects of corruption on the nation’s poor. Organizations have rallied in an effort to combat corruption around the globe, through initiatives like the Summit for Democracy and USAID’s Combating Transnational Corruption Grand Challenge. It has become clear that interagency and international cooperation are necessary to make the biggest difference.

The Executive Director of Transparencia Venezuela, Mercedes De Freitas, has called for all people to “take responsibility, denounce corruption and demand accountability.” She emphasized that silence allows the corrupt to continue to evade justice, and “only by victims and witnesses denouncing corrupt acts and individuals, is there a chance for…things to change for the better in Venezuela.” 

– Carly Ryan Brister
Photo: Wikipedia Commons

Domestic Corruption in Moldova
Moldova, a nation with one of the highest poverty rates among European countries, has a long history of political corruption that has stood in the way of progress. Though the nation’s path toward realizing democracy and greater economic prosperity has been complicated, recent democratic reforms offer hope for successfully combating domestic corruption in Moldova.

Moldova’s History of Corruption and Recent Embrace of Democracy

Discordant efforts towards combating domestic corruption in Moldova have taken place since 2005, when former President Vladimir Voronin, the Moldovan Communist Party leader, embraced a pro-democracy platform. While Moldova passed subsequent acts of legislation to address corruption, its justice system remained corrupt in many respects, as prosecutors and judges frequently received bribes or pressure to deliver court rulings that favored kleptocrats. In 2015, officers arrested and charged Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat for his role in a massive corruption scandal the previous year in which someone stole around $1 billion from Moldova’s three main banks.

In 2020, Moldova elected its first female president, Maia Sandu, who ran on an anti-corruption platform. During her campaign, Sandu pledged to reform Moldova’s courts. While President Sandu’s pro-European Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) won a majority in parliament, the government is still fighting an uphill battle to root out corruption. Going forward, these anti-corruption efforts will require increased support from civil society organizations, grassroots movements and NGOs to increase pressure on Moldova’s political elite. The nation has already adopted proportional representation in parliament, and Sandu’s government is actively promoting democratic reforms by working to improve Moldova’s business environment and limit monopolistic competition, promoting a free and independent press and improving labor conditions.

US Policymakers’ Efforts to Help Moldova

In light of Moldova’s recent democratic reforms and anti-corruption agenda, U.S. lawmakers have expressed views that more can occur in Washington to further these efforts. On July 29, 2022, ranking members of the House Foreign Affairs and Senate Foreign Relations committees sent a joint bipartisan letter to the Biden Administration, urging the President to resolutely support Moldova’s reform efforts by announcing new sanctions on corrupt Moldovan figures. These sanctions, in accordance with the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act of 2016, are necessary to further the Moldovan government’s aims to stabilize the nation, continue on a pro-democracy trajectory and build resilience against hostile Russian influence.

These sanctions are the latest development in the broader context of the U.S. government’s efforts to foster a strong diplomatic relationship with Moldova and encourage democratic governance in recent years. Over the past three decades, the U.S. has given more than $1.7 billion in humanitarian and economic aid to Moldova, and the top priorities for ongoing assistance to the nation include strengthening Moldova’s economic resilience, bolstering democratic institutions, preventing encroachments on the nation’s sovereignty, and reforming Moldova’s justice system. In April 2022, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine (which shares a border with Moldova), USAID administered an additional $50 million in aid, intended to reinforce the Moldovan economy’s ability to withstand the significant strain and the war’s projected consequences. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited the nation the month prior.

Looking Ahead

The positive trajectory towards democracy and combating domestic corruption in Moldova, as well as the remarkable ways in which the nation has helped Ukrainian refugees in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, have captured the attention of U.S. policymakers. While there are still great strides for Moldova to make, the recent indications of progress in Moldova are promising, and they have ignited a sense of global urgency to further aid the nation, on the cusp of realizing democracy and greater economic prosperity, in its ongoing efforts.

– Oliver De Jonghe
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Romania existed under the rule of communist dictator Nicolae Ceauşescu from 1965 to 1989. This regime maintained a highly divisive society that witnessed large levels of economic inequality. During the transition into a post-communist state, Romania placed a heavier emphasis on economic prosperity as the crux of a good democracy as opposed to increased political liberties. Due to large-scale economic structural changes during this period of transition, the nation experienced hyperinflation, the loss of millions of jobs and a significant drop in living conditions. This resulted in social disintegration and distrust, widespread corruption, increasing inequality and high levels of poverty. These ramifications are still visible today in the modern social systems in Romania, or lack thereof, that perpetuate a cycle of poverty.

A Look into Ceauşescu’s Regime

The era of communism saw Romania adopting Soviet policies, reserving ultimate authority to the communist party. This included a focus on heavy industry as opposed to consumer goods, causing mass starvation and higher rates of mortality in the nation. Citizens waited in long lines to receive basic necessities, such as bread and milk, while Ceauşescu built the Palace of the Parliament, currently the second-largest administrative building in the world, to refashion the nation’s capital city. The infamous network of the secret police, or the Securitate, instilled fear and paranoia in the country, infiltrating almost all social settings to suppress any opposition to the communist party.

As resource deprivations became more common and poverty began to affect the privileged classes, people grew more unhappy with the communist regime. The end of this era was more violent than any other communist collapse in Eastern Europe with the assassination of the Ceauşescus being the signifying turning point. The weak and disorganized opposition parties that replaced the dictatorship made for a difficult post-communist transition.

Corruption in Romania Today

The economic transition following the fall of communism in Romania saw multiple collapses with the loss of millions of jobs. This resulted in widespread rates of poverty and corruption. According to Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), Romania is one of the most corrupt countries in the European Union with a score of 45 out of 100, “where[zero] means highly corrupt.”

Modern social systems in Romania do little to counter this and instead further the issues. In the judicial system, “bribes and irregular payments” are commonplace to secure favorable court outcomes. Corruption scandals involving judges, the court’s inconsistency and the lack of experience with a market economy and other systems make the judicial institution unreliable and incredible. Because of this, Romania weakly enforces its anti-corruption laws. Bribes and irregular payments also go toward public services, constituting the primary obstacle to maintaining a functional public administration.

Social Assistance Programs

In 2019, the World Bank reported that 23.4% of Romania’s population lived under the national poverty line poverty. In 2015, BBC News stated that poverty disproportionately impacts the Roma population in several European countries, including Romania. In addition, according to UNICEF in 2021, one in three children in Romania face the danger of “poverty or social exclusion.”

Because of a dysfunctional public administration overrun by corruption, social assistance programs are weak and difficult to access. Several programs give equal assistance regardless of whether one is wealthy or impoverished, allowing some to take advantage of this system. The lack of direct attention to those who are in need in addition to non-transparent bureaucratic procedures prevents these programs from providing real aid.

Romania’s main strategy in combating child poverty has been “child allowances and other social benefits, combined with investments in infrastructure and the promotion of economic development and jobs,” said UNICEF. However, these investments have not had any significant impact on the rates of child poverty. Cash allowances are not a sustainable solution to the other challenges that vulnerable families face, including subpar education, child abandonment and high infant mortality rates.


Nonprofit organizations such as Freedom House and UNICEF are continuously working to support anti-corruption and social assistance measures globally. Freedom House has issued annual reports and statistics analyzing Romania’s judicial framework, corruption and civil society among many other topics, providing necessary criticism to catalyze change.

UNICEF has implemented the Minimum Package of Services (MPS) solution in Romania to assist with rates of child poverty. This program is now part of the law on Social Assistance and ensures the right of every child to services in “health, nutrition, education [and] protection.” Since its onset, MPS has reduced child poverty from 30% to almost zero in certain communities, addressing issues such as “violence, early pregnancy [and] preventable diseases” through the collaboration of “at least one social worker and one community nurse” with school counselors as well as home visits and outreach work.

Looking Ahead

The flawed transition out of more than two decades of dictatorship in Romania set the stage for the current issues that the nation grapples with. Modern social systems in Romania are creating barricades that prevent real assistance from reaching those in need. This perpetuates poverty and maintains corruption. These ramifications are visible in all aspects of society and affect citizens from young to old. Therefore, intervention is necessary to reform these systems, prevent corruption, continue progressing past Ceauşescu’s regime and reduce poverty.

Kimberly Calugaru
Photo: Flickr

Poverty In The Philippines
The pandemic had a negative impact on every country in the world. From economic depression to increased poverty, conditions in rich and poor countries declined. One of the countries that the pandemic hit hardest was the Philippines. The pandemic pushed more than 2.3 million Filipinos under the poverty line. By 2021, poverty in the Philippines was above 18%, well overshooting the government target of 15.5%. The Philippines is also $242 billion in debt, amounting to nearly 64% of its GDP. This 16-year high is partly due to the pandemic, as the financial stress it caused led to the government borrowing more. To top it all off, inflation is rising at the highest rate since 2018, further exacerbating the country’s economic struggle. Luckily, the new president of the Philippines has a plan to reduce the poverty rate in the Philippines by half.

The Newly Inaugurated President’s Plan

Despite the country’s increasing economic disparity, the newly inaugurated President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. proposed a record budget to tackle poverty, health care and social welfare in 2023. For him, boosting the economy and reducing poverty in the Philippines is supposedly at the forefront of his agenda. He recently proposed a 2023 budget of $94 billion (5.29 trillion pesos) – a significant increase from the previous year’s budget. This budget aims at lifting millions of people out of poverty and significantly boosting economic growth. He also pledged to cut the poverty rate in half, aiming for 9% by the end of his term in 2028.

Furthermore, Marcos intends to reduce the Philippine debt to less than 60% of its GDP. He also plans to initiate the nation’s own Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Establishing a CDC is a step that makes vaccines more available, lowers the cost of medicine and expands health care accessibility in rural areas that lack it.

A Tarnished Family Legacy

While Marcos’ budget sounds promising for tackling the poverty rate in the Philippines and promoting economic growth, his presidency carries a heavily tarnished past. Marcos Jr. is the son of late former President Ferdinand Marcos Sr., who served as the 10th Philippine president for 21 years. Controversy, corruption and even dictatorship marred the Marcos Sr. presidency. In 1972, Marcos Sr. put the country under martial law, which lasted for nine years. During that time, numerous human rights violations occurred, followed by economic collapse and rising inflation.

By the end of his rule, the poverty rate in the Philippines was at an all-time high, having risen from 42% to 59%. It is well documented that Marcos Sr.’s political opponents and critics were assassinated or tortured and that the Muslim minority was heavily silenced and oppressed. In addition, he and his wife Imelda received accusations of plundering around $10 billion, much of which was never recovered. Despite the numerous charges of racketeering, graft and corruption, Imelda Marcos ended up serving as a congresswoman for nine years. Her daughter Imee currently serves as a senator. Additionally, on May 25, 2022, her son Marcos Jr. officially became the 17th President of the Philippines.

Mixed Feelings

Some say that the Philippines is heading into another era of corruption and dictatorship. Others say that Marcos Jr. is fighting hard to escape his father’s shadow. Whatever the case may be, one thing is certain; this struggling Asian country requires strong leadership and sound judgment if it is to recover from its current economic crisis.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Corruption in Laos
Laos, or Lao People’s Democratic Republic, is one of the poorest countries in the region. However, its economy has significantly increased in the last 20 years. While it continues working to improve economically, Laos faces a large amount of corruption, ranking 128 out of 180 in the Corruption Perceptions Index in 2021. With the problem still being prevalent, the Lao people suffer the consequences of corrupt officials, creating a lack of confidence in the Lao government. Citizens also suffer from corrupt police officers, who often will detain, bribe and intimidate people. Thankfully, the Lao PDR works to combat corruption by improving the State Inspection Authority’s practice of investigations, doing United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) Reviews and Lao officials having in-person training with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to investigate finances and firings of corrupt state officials and authorities.

How Does Corruption Affect the Poor?

With the World Bank’s goal to end extreme poverty by 2030, it has stated that corruption is a major challenge to overcome all around the world. Corruption disproportionately affects the poor in terms of price gouging and reducing access to social services such as “health, education and justice.” Because corruption is still prevalent, there is a disconnect between the citizens and their trust in government, continuing to perpetuate “discontent that leads to fragility, violent extremism and conflict,” according to the World Bank. This makes poor peoples’ lives more difficult when a country’s government does not invest in its “human capital.”

What is Happening in Laos?

Laos is still developing as a country, resulting in many weak laws and authorities neglecting enforcement. A 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Laos, that the U.S. Department of State conducted, reported officers practicing arbitrary arrests due to a “provision of the law that permits warrantless arrests in urgent cases,” which makes it easier and allows officers to continue to extort people for bribes or as a tactic for intimidation. Employers fired more than 1,300 low-ranking police officers nationwide from their jobs after they took bribes from drug traffickers and motorists in 2016 under then Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulthin. The results of doing this may help impoverished Lao citizens from intimidation by cops all around the country and partially eliminate corruption in Laos.

The State Inspection Authority reported that the Lao government lost funding for multiple types of currency equaling around $732 million since 2016 due to corruption. Inspectors found that Lao state officials and company executives were misusing funds for various state projects. They also found that road and bridge construction projects as a major activity for graft. Embezzlement lessened the funding going directly to these projects. Because of this, the optimal level of implementation of projects for construction and better roads is not possible, which makes transportation and quality of living difficult for Laos’ citizens.

Companies are at higher risk of facing corruption in Laos when acquiring permits, especially as the regulations implemented in Laos are “often vague and conflicting,” resulting in legislation not being well implemented and enforced under the law. Bribery and incentivizing undocumented extra payments can be more common for public utilities, especially when government officials have low wages.


The State Inspection Authority continues to investigate targets as well as state investment programs to account for losses from corruption. Over a span of five years from 2016 to 2020, it had prosecuted 140 employees involved in government, state-owned enterprises and private companies. The office of the President is now directly supervising the State Inspection Authority to effectively investigate government performance and civil servants. There also was a State Inspectors Authority Inspectors Anti-Corruption workshop that took place in February 2022. It focused on “the general definition of anti-corruption, forms and gift of corruption, laundering proceeds of corruption and anti-corruption lessons learned in Laos,” allowing participants to understand their role in fighting corruption in Laos.

The Lao PDR is moving forward to attempt to fight corruption, doing two complete cycles of its UNCAC Review addressing issues such as technical capacity-building needs to investigate finances. The UNODC held in-person training on anti-corruption and financial investigations, even bringing officials from seven different provinces in Laos. Doing this allows authorities to learn how to do financial investigations through online and offline sources, making it easier to expose corruption and hold both public officials and private companies accountable.

Moving Forward

While corruption in Laos is still prominent, the Lao PDR has been working to combat the issue. As Laos continues its fight, the country can invest in its “human capital” to improve its people’s quality of life, as well as make the Lao people more confident in their government. As long as there are continuous efforts to eliminate corruption in Laos, the Lao people will be further away from facing poverty in the future.

– Jerrett Phinney
Photo: Flickr

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Indonesian government recently announced the Indonesia Integrity Initiative (Integritas). Integritas is a program that seeks to prevent corruption in Indonesia. Despite the great political transformation Indonesia has undergone over the past 20 years, corruption remains a stubborn holdover from the previous authoritarian regime. Moreover, corruption in Indonesia permeates both the public and private sectors. It promotes negative outcomes in both governance and business. With an eye toward increased civic engagement, Integritas represents a new way of addressing the issue.

Corruption in Indonesia

In 2011, more than eight in 10 Indonesians claimed that corruption was a serious issue. Ten years later, Transparency International’s 2021 Corruption Perception Index scored Indonesia 38 out of 180 countries in perceived public corruption, with lower scores indicating higher perceived corruption. This long-held distrust is not without reason. Former President Suharto allegedly profited $15-$35 billion through corrupt practices in his 31-year tenure.

Suharto’s behavior set the standard for graft and abuse of public resources by officials for decades. In 2019, a member of parliament running for reelection had more than 400,000 envelopes in his basement meant for voter bribes. In 2021, a former maritime affairs and fisheries minister was found guilty of accepting bribes in a livestock smuggling scandal.

Finally, lower-level corruption is just as prevalent. Nepotism and bribery plague the civil service sector, especially in its enrollment program. Importantly, these practices harm Indonesia’s governance, economy and people.

How Corruption Impedes Growth

Prevalent corruption impedes economic growth by fueling inefficiencies in resource management. It also distorts economic incentives meant to encourage growth. This is partially why the Indonesian economy has made slow progress over the last few years. In turn, this slow progress leaves many without formal employment. Those who take up informal positions in rural areas often receive pay below the regional minimum wage. That, in turn, keeps many in poverty, and seeing this poverty, candidates seeking office bribe voters with money and food, including sugar and rice. Of course, this further exacerbates the problem once the candidates take office. Clearly, a necessary step in addressing corruption in Indonesia is changing the culture around it.

The Indonesia Integrity Initiative

The Integritas program looks to address corruption by promoting civic engagement and integrity in business and government sectors. The goal is to aid local civil society in identifying systemic corruption vulnerabilities and conflicts of interests that promote them. This strategy marks a shift from corruption prosecution to prevention. If successful, citizens will become more aware of anti-corruption programs, adopt attitudes that promote shunning of corrupt practices and will provide much-needed oversight in public and private sectors.

USAID cooperated with the Indonesian government to align Integritas with national development goals on growth and stability. This makes anti-corruption efforts a high priority alongside economic and development initiatives. The Partnership for Governance Reform (Kemitraan), a local NGO, will be implementing this $9.9 million program over the next five years.

With corruption present in most levels of society, many Indonesian citizens have grown accustomed to these dishonest practices and even encourage certain forms of it, such as voter payoffs. These practices have negatively impacted economic growth and hurt those who struggle to find fair employment. The Integritas program will help address this issue and, if successful, should promote a culture that makes it hard for corruption in Indonesia to thrive.

– Gonzalo Rodriguez
Photo: Flickr