Poverty and Corruption in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is currently one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly 40 percent of the Afghan population living in poverty. Afghanistan is also one of the most politically corrupt countries in the world. In 2018, The anti-corruption organization Transparency International ranked Afghanistan an index score of 16/100 for its high levels of corruption. Over the past several decades, political corruption in Afghanistan has destabilized the country and contributed to its poverty problem.

USAID has always believed that political corruption and poverty are an interlinked problem because political corruption has a tendency to aggravate the symptoms of poverty in countries with struggling economic growth and political transition. Conversely, the social and economic inequalities that are found in impoverished countries are known to create systemic corruption.

The Scope of Contemporary Corruption in Afghanistan

The destabilizing effects of political corruption on Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. According to Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), a U.S. government agency tasked with the reconstruction of Afghanistan, corruption has been a major obstacle in the political, economic and cultural reconstruction of Afghanistan. The Asia Foundation has identified more than 70 forms of corruption currently within Afghanistan that cross a wide range of institutions, including international aid and public administration.

Two of the most common forms of corruption in Afghanistan are nepotism and bribery. Many of the basic public services provided by the government are only obtainable through the payment of bribes, which has caused severe distress to Afghan citizens. Afghanistan’s economic growth has been severely damaged by the reliance on bribes to pay for public services. Nepotism and patronage have made it difficult for honest people without connections to rise within the political system and have given impunity to corrupt officials.

Afghan Awareness and Perceptions of Corruption

Unfortunately, many Afghans believe certain forms of corruption are inevitable and, in certain cases, a legitimate form of political life. When surveyed in 2012, at least 30 percent believed that most forms of bribery were acceptable. This type of attitude towards political corruption can make efforts to reduce or eradicate corruption more difficult.

Nevertheless, the Afghan people have not been completely culturally ingrained with political corruption, and there are many who still criticize corruption in Afghanistan. Most Afghans have consistently stated in several polls that corruption is a serious problem that their country is facing. A study from the Asia Foundation has shown that most Afghans believe that political corruption was more severe during and after Karzai then it had been under several past regimes.

Anti-Corruption Efforts

In 2014, President Ashraf Ghani was elected into executive office in Afghanistan. He has shown a remarkable commitment to developing and implementing strategies to decrease corruption and stabilize the country. Following his election in 2014, his first course of action was to not only dismiss several corrupt heads and directors of certain departments but also charge them with corruption, marking a major change from his predecessor Karzai.

In 2017, Afghanistan’s National Strategy for Combating Corruption (Anti-Corruption Strategy) was adopted by Afghanistan’s High Council and was developed under the supervision of President Ghani. The Strategy consists of 6 pillars outlining the course of action to be taken against corruption. This strategy was based on a comprehensive analysis of the causes and drivers of corruption and provides realistic goals that make it relatively easy to implement. Some of the pillars are designed to address nepotism (pillar 3) and money tracking (pillar 5).

The Ghani administration introduced new legislation in 2017 and 2018 to reduce and prevent corruption. The laws have been limited to a certain extent due to extenuating circumstances; however, they have had a certain level of success. The most notable success in the prosecution of corruption with this new legislation has been the adoption of a new Penal Code. This new Penal Code was the first to incorporate financial and corruption laws into its criminal provisions, making it a major achievement for the Afghanistan legal system.

Corruption Is Declining

While corruption is still pervasive in Afghanistan, these efforts have demonstrated some progress. Within the Transparency International Index, Afghanistan’s CPI score has steadily grown from 11 in 2015 to 16 in 2018, which is one of the largest increases any country has experienced in this amount of time. The introduction of new legislation and the adoption of the Anti-Corruption Strategy can provide a solid foundation to stabilize Afghanistan and reform its political system from corruption.

The government, under Ghani, has already taken the first steps in decreasing the significant level of corruption in Afghanistan throughout the country by implementing these strategies and laws. While progress may be slow, it appears that under President Ghani, Afghanistan may be on its way to political stabilization, allowing it to provide better public services and alleviate poverty within the country.

Randall Costa
Photo: Flickr

Help People in TunisiaIn December of 2010, a 26-year-old Tunisian man who struggled with poverty committed self-immolation in protest of police and government actions. This incident marked the starting point of the “Arab Spring,” during which various North Africa and Middle East countries reached democratic regimes.

However, after 5 years of revolution, Tunisia still faces distinct difficulties. Corruption, unemployment and violence against women are the most severe issues. Even though there have been advances to solve these complications, the following organizations help people in Tunisia developing several programs.

Transparency International

Corruption was one of the main problems that citizens attempted to solve in Arab Spring. Ironically, it is the principal concern that Tunisians have now. According to a study made by Transparency International, 61 percent of the people in the country believe that the level of corruption has increased in the last 12 months. Additionally, 30 percent of the people surveyed fear retaliation if they speak out about corruption.

Transparency International brings some strategies to attack this issue and help people in Tunisia. One of them is finishing with the impunity, which means that those public officials that break the law must be punished in order to end the corruption cycle. Empowering the citizens to monitor politicians and promote transparency allows citizens to know where taxes, credits or international aid are used in the public interest is another strategy.

Unfortunately, 15 percent of the Tunisians live in unemployment, an indicator that triggers poverty. In addition, some areas are more vulnerable than others: the most affected zone is the central area of the country, where poverty reaches 30 percent in some regions.

International Labor Organization

Unemployment gets worse in youth, since 33 percent of young Tunisian men and women between 15 and 29 suffers this problem. To help people in Tunisia, the International Labor Organization (ILO) works to transform this situation.

It has created local economic development by giving young people pilot projects. One such project is the construction of a marketplace that will give merchants a better place to sell their wares. In addition, it has helped local people to develop new and useful skills; for instance, about 100 Tunisians have been trained in agriculture, knowledge that will permit them growing, harvesting and selling products.

U.N. Women

In other areas, Tunisia is moving forward. In 2010 for instance,  U.N. Women reported that nearly 50 percent of Tunisian women had experienced violence in their lifetime. However, last July, the Tunisian Congress passed the first national law to combat violence against women. This law primarily ensures the survivors access to essential services, such as legal and psychological assistance.

Mobile applications also prevent violence against women. With Eyewatch, for example, in just one click the app informs people what is happening at the moment. This technology was used by women in Dharavi, a locality in Mumbai, India. The application has helped women to track cases of violence, the Guardian reported.

How to help people in Tunisia has become an important question that organizations are addressing. Donating to these organizations and calling your legislators to support bills that help nations like Tunisia are surefire ways to help truly make a difference.

Dario Ledesma

Photo: Flickr

History has shown that government and institutional corruption can greatly hinder progress in developing countries. A new study by Transparency International reports that countries with faster-growing economies are more prone to government corruption.

The research shows that governments in countries such as China, Turkey and Angola are becoming more corrupt with increased fraud and bribery while others are reducing corruption levels.

Corruption is a major issue that causes distress in the lives of the poor and impedes international efforts to bring countries out of poverty. Numerous international organizations stress that corruption causes major setbacks in development work. Transparency International also states that corrupt officials prevent progress and impair public trust in the government.

Chairperson of Transparency International, José Ugaz, emphasizes the severity of corruption, stating, “Grand corruption in big economies not only blocks basic human rights for the poorest but also creates governance problems and instability. Fast-growing economies whose governments refuse to be transparent and tolerate corruption create a culture of impunity in which corruption thrives.”

International aid has a large correlation with corruption in impoverished nations. While the causation for that corruption is debatable, the majority of researchers agree that foreign aid helps to increase national stability and to bring people out of desperate situations. The Transparency International Policy organization works to assure that foreign aid is not deterred by government corruption.

The organization’s recent report was developed from 13 data sources and the estimated perceptions of many businesspeople and experts. The index scores 175 countries from zero to 100, with zero comprising a “highly corrupt” public sector and 100 representing a “very clean” establishment.

Afghanistan, the Ivory Coast and Egypt made the most improvement in eliminating government corruption, though the countries still remain towards the bottom of the index. Almost all underdeveloped nations have scores below 50 (with zero being extremely corrupt and 100 very clean). Denmark has the lowest estimated level of corruption, while Somalia and North Korea are ranked as having the most corrupt governments, with a score of eight.

As the report shows that every country is affected, Transparency International warns that corruption is threatening economic growth across the globe. Higher levels of corruption are marked by widespread bribery and fraud, an absence of punishment for corruption and public institutions that fail to attend to citizens’ needs.

While some researchers disapprove of foreign aid, stating that in certain nations it has fostered corruption, Transparency International officials encourage the use of aid as a means to diminish corruption.

Peter Eigen, the founder of Transparency Interational, states that, “Additional aid resources are needed, but their delivery has to be structured in a way that takes account of the risk of corruption. At the same time, while developing countries need increased resources, both sides must work together to put an end to corruption.”

– Nina Verfaillie

Sources: The Guardian, World Bank, Transparency International 1, Transparency International 2
Photo: N.Y. Mag

How To Stop Climate Finance CorruptionLast December, the non-governmental organization Transparency International released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) that documents levels of perceived public sector corruption in many countries. This document was published at the same time as the UN climate conference in Qatar. These two events are related because many of the countries with the highest ratings of corruption in the CPI are the countries that need the most urgent funding for climate change-resilient infrastructure. The United Nations cannot afford to let climate change finances be diverted by corruption. The two most important things to keep in mind when investing in climate finance are that anti-corruption is cheaper than corruption and that the time to act is now.

Taking climate funding away from corrupt countries and giving it to nations that are perceived to be less corrupt is not an option. The countries that were originally allocated funds during the UN conference need and deserve them. We must then focus on how to best reduce the corruption of climate financing in these poverty-stricken countries. This takes more money in the short-term but will pay off in the long run. Installing accountable policies, systems and personnel is an important step to making sure that the money is not squandered. The monetary gain of investing more money, in the beginning, is evident in a recent study of North Africa by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis. In the current corrupt environment, a particular solar power project was projected to cost $2 trillion dollars. However, when they adjusted for a 5% reduction of corruption in the region, the price tag for the project dropped to $750 billion. This huge monetary difference, in the long run, would more than cover the necessary funds to set up a less corrupt system now.

There is no time to lose when installing anti-corruption systems. Climate finance initiatives are a new phenomenon. This makes it easier to tackle problems with corruption than it will ever be. If we can make sure that the system is as secure as possible in its infancy, then there will be no need to do the tedious business of trying to untangle and rebuild a system that never worked efficiently. The keys to fighting corruption are transparent payrolls, budgets and decision-makers, explanations of why decisions are made, input from citizens and monitoring by independent sources. These are technical necessities for an anti-corrupt system, but more importantly, there must be a political will to make them a reality. Climate finance could change the face of our future for the positive, but it is up to people and governments to invest in it.

– Sean Morales

Source: AlertNet
Photo: SABC News