Fighting Corruption 101
From the bottom of the bureaucratic ladder to the highest offices of the state, most developing nations suffer some degree of systematic corruption. Such abuses of power are wrong and harmful to the cause of relieving people from poverty worldwide. Corruption is about self-interest and using the power vested in the state for one’s own gains, instead of helping society as a whole. What strategies work to help fight corruption and simultaneously assist the struggle against poverty?
One key strategy used to fight institutional corruption, is to keep governments accountable. Accountability is only achievable by watching the government. Watching the government and people in office requires transparency. Too many secrets in government can keep corrupt practices under the covers and away from the eyes of the fourth estate – journalists.
Journalists are a critical to keeping governments and officials accountable to the people they preside over. Without transparency of government affairs, journalists’ ability to do proper reporting is often compromised, and this system of checks-and-balances becomes weakened. Corruption can be held back by vocal journalists with access to government documents and news, so that they may raise concerns and questions to the general population.
Corruption is also made easier when the bureaucracy grows too large and unwieldy. The farther the public is from the top levels of government, the easier it is for someone in between to take advantage of his or her own position. Minimizing red tape means there is less of an opportunity for someone to be corrupted. There is a correlation between high levels of pointless and unhelpful regulation, and corrupt practices in government.
A third method to reducing corruption, and one of the most effective – but difficult to quantify and implement – is to simply create stronger institutions of governance and regulation. A strong institution is one that has loyal employees and is immune to most corruption because of its own internal integrity. Paying good wages and benefits to government workers is highly effective in working against corruption because the monetary incentives for corruption would be severely weakened by good wages.
Introducing technology to handle tasks is also an effective way to reduce corruption. It’s much harder to cook the books or do other similar elicit activity when software takes care of the work on its own and can spot irregularities.
Fighting corruption is imperative to creating conditions in which poverty can be systematically eliminated. Corruption often manifests itself through rent-seeking behaviors where regulators are “captured” (corrupted by the people that would have been regulated), and these behaviors are often very regressive against the poor because of their lack of political voice in most cases. Reducing corruption is also beneficial to local economies because it allows outside investors to have greater interest in the region, due to less risk of higher sunk costs.
Corruption is detrimental to the economy and bad for the poor. Using these aforementioned strategies can help eliminate the culture of corruption in many developing nations, as well as already developed ones.
– Martin Yim
Sources: World Bank, European Commission, IMF
Photo: World Bank