News

Worldwide Corruption Continues to Block Development

Multimedia

Audio

Bribery, nepotism, and other forms of corruption exist to a greater or lesser extent in all countries, but its corrosive effects hurt poor nations the most. The World Bank considers corruption one of the greatest obstacles to economic and social development because it undermines the rule of law and weakens the institutional foundations upon which economic growth depends.

In this first of a series on worldwide corruption, VOA's Bill Rodgers reports on what corruption is, where it is more pervasive, and how it can be stopped.

It was a secret video of Peru's one-time intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, paying a bribe to a congressman that led to the downfall of President Alberto Fujimori's government. When the video, taped by Montesinos himself, was leaked to the media in September 2000 it unleashed such a scandal that the Fujimori government fell less than three months later, ending 10 years of autocratic rule.

The Montesinos bribery scandal is a textbook example of the corrosive effects of corruption on a country's political life, its institutions, and economy. Yet Peru is not the only country plagued by corruption.

"Corruption is something that afflicts all of us. There is no country that does not have a challenge in terms of controlling corruption," says Nancy Boswell, who heads the U.S. chapter of Transparency International - a group which monitors global corruption.

"There are always going to be people who are corrupt," she adds. " I don't think at the end of the day that any one of us believes that one country has more of that culture or less of that culture. It really is a question of have they been able to develop the institutional mechanisms to control it."

Corruption takes many forms - from bribery of police or government officials, insider trading in stock markets, nepotism in hiring for jobs. Groups like Transparency say it is extremely difficult to quantify the amount of corruption that takes place each year because of its secretive nature. However, some estimates put the global figure for bribery alone at more than one-trillion dollars annually. In just the construction industry, Transparency estimates, ten percent of the four trillion dollar industry disappears because of corruption.

Corruption expert Louise Shelley says the effect of graft is especially damaging for poor countries.

"If you have five percent of an economy being paid in bribes or seven percent, a strong economy like an Italy can tolerate that. A weaker economy that loses a similar percentage of its assets will be much worse off," she says.

A country plagued by corruption also will have difficulty in attracting foreign investment - one of the keys in generating economic development.

"Companies, if they can help it, will not go to countries where corruption is rampant," says Boswell. "Survey after survey demonstrates that companies go where there is a hospitable environment and part of that is less corruption. So that is an important factor as well. For countries that want to attract investment and trade, focusing on fighting corruption is an absolutely vital element for that equation."

With some exceptions, it is the countries that rely on a single natural resource for most of their income that are most susceptible to corruption. Oil rich countries - like Venezuela and Nigeria - are examples of this. In its annual corruption index, Transparency International ranks these two nations as among the worst for corruption. Louise Shelley, who heads the Washington-based Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, explains why oil-rich countries are so susceptible.

"Because you have one natural resource that generates huge amounts of money and that natural resource is concentrated in the hands of a central elite or ruling figure and therefore it becomes a very close held group that controls this natural resource," she says. "And because there is such an international market for it, there's just enormous corruption that accompanies it."

The United States is not immune from corruption. Recently, there have been several scandals involving misdeeds by U.S. lawmakers.

Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, for example, was forced to resign his office last year and was sentenced to jail for taking more than two million dollars in bribes.

But it is in dictatorships like those in Burma or Belarus where corruption flourishes because there is no transparency, no free press, and citizens have almost no rights. Louise Shelley points to the 2003 Rose Revolution in Georgia as an example where citizens mobilized to depose a corrupt, authoritarian government.

"You need citizens that are so fed up with the corruption that is in existence that they demand change," she says. "And that they are ready to change their ways and their behavior so they are not complicit in this corruption. There needs to be a social contract where the society decides it is going to do something about it. We've seen it in Italy, we've seen it in Georgia, where there are major efforts made with the society and the government in tandem to do something about a serious problem."

Anti-corruption marches have been staged in Peru and other nations where citizens are demanding change.

But ending corruption requires more than just demonstrations. Anti-corruption laws have to be passed and the judiciary must be empowered to enforce them. To this end, a United Nations Convention signed by more than 130 countries went into effect in December, outlining a list of recommendations for how government, the private sector and citizens can help stop corruption.

Much of the focus is on business. Since 1977, the United States has had a law on the books, called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which forbids U.S. businesses from paying bribes when operating abroad. The OECD - which groups together 30 industrialized countries - has a convention that makes it illegal for the companies of member nations to engage in bribery.

Prior to the 1999 OECD convention, some industrialized countries permitted their companies to engage in bribery abroad and even allowed those expenses to be tax deductible.

Transparency International's Nancy Boswell says she is hopeful measures such as the OECD treaty will help curb corruption, but she adds a change of attitude is also required.

"Every time we see the damage, particularly in the poorest areas of the world, and we understand the disproportionate impact of corruption on the poor, then I think we remember it is really important for all of us to play a role," she says. "Business, for example, thinks about 'Am a going to get the deal?' and they think about competition. It is important that they also understand there's an impact to their actions that flows down the chain to the very poorest."

The stakes are highest for developing countries. Boswell and others agree that these nations must stamp out corruption if they hope to someday emerge from the mire of underdevelopment and poverty.

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs