Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Corruption is a Cancer that Retards Development

Unbridled corruption is a cancer in society that will, like uncontrolled cancer cells in the body, invade and corrupt the healthy parts, leading to the destruction of the body. Just as with cancer the disease, there are many forms of corruption. Some are relatively benign, while some are malignant and if not excised, eventually terminal.

Corruption distorts the functioning of economic systems, diverting revenue and resources from productive channels. It infects the bureaucratic process, making rational decision making and implementation of government policies all but impossible. Worse, though, corruption erodes the bonds of trust that must exist between a people and their government and among people if a society is to function rationally. It creates a ‘law of the jungle’ ‘dog-eat-dog’ environment where benefits go, not to those most in need, but to those who can selfishly manipulate the levers of power and decision making.

Everyone in a society has an obligation to help root out corruption. Government officials who engage in corrupt practices should forfeit their positions and be subject to legal action. It is necessary but not sufficient to merely have laws and policies against corruption. There must be direct, aggressive, and positive action to eliminate it. A government’s response to corruption should be ‘one strike and you’re out.’

Citizens too have a role to play and an obligation when it comes to rooting out corruption in a society. The citizen who thinks it’s okay to pay ‘grease’ money to speed up a slow administrative process might enjoy a short-term advantage, but he or she is helping to perpetuate the very inefficiency the bribe is trying to overcome. In addition, this act sends the signal of acceptance of the corrupt practice. Never underestimate the power of “NO.” If enough of the populace stands firm and refuses to cave in to corrupt demands, at least in the case of some of the minor forms, this will begin the process of excising them from the body politic. Even for the more serious forms of corruption, citizen demands for redress can begin the process of nudging a government to action. Not all cancers kill, but their very presence indicates an unhealthy body that would be better off without their presence. Corruption is truly a disease that can be cured by self-healing.