U.N. officials say small-scale corruption hits poor people hardest and strangles economic growth across Asia. Chad Bouchard reports from Jakarta.
Poor people in countries around the Asia-Pacific region are bombarded with illegal charges and bribes in their daily lives.
A new report released by the U.N. Development Program indicates that petty corruption perpetuates poverty and increases child mortality rates.
UNDP Assistant Secretary-General Olav Kjørven says high-profile cases of corruption at the top levels of government should not take attention away from small-scale graft.
"Poor people are the ones who can least afford to pay bribes, but they find themselves that they have no other choice in order to protect what little they have or to get access to at least some minimum social service, whether it's education or health," he said. "And so in addition to the resource transfer away from productive services for the public good at the macro-level, at the micro-level, it hurts individuals and families directly."
Kjørven says at police check points, government offices, and even schools and hospitals the poverty stricken pay extra for the services they need to sustain everyday life.
"Those are the areas where regular people need the government the most in their day-to-day lives," he said. "If the majority of the people see the government as just one big corrupt beast that is just there as a problem not as a catalyst or a facilitator for development, for progress, then the sustainability of the state itself becomes questionable."
The report recommends rooting out corruption in the justice system as a top priority, and supports public access to financial information to keep governments honest.
As much as 40 percent of the funds for infrastructure projects across the region are lost due to bid rigging and other corruption, the UNDP said.
The report was released in Indonesia, where the country's president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono says his country could be destroyed if corruption continues to grow. He has called for "shock therapy" to help root it out.