Causes Of Corruption Essay

Published: 2020-04-22 08:06:56
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Category: Corruption

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The paper stresses the need to keep the issue of corruption squarely in view in the development agenda. It discusses the causes and consequences of corruption, especially in the context of a least developed country with considerable regulation and central direction. Lack of transparency, accountability and consistency, as well as institutional weaknesses such as in the legislative and judicial systems, provide fertile ground for growth of rent seeking activities in such a country. In addition to the rise of an underground economy and the high social costs associated with corruption, its adverse consequences on income distribution, consumption patterns, investment, the government budget and on economic reforms are highlighted in the paper. The paper also touches upon the supply side of bribery and its international dimensions and presents some thoughts on how to address the corruption issue and to try and bring it under control.

There is a growing worldwide concern over corruption at the present time. Several factors are responsible for this. First, a consensus has now been reached that corruption is universal. It exists in all countries, both developed and developing, in the public and private sectors, as well as in non-profit and charitable organizations. Second, allegations and charges of corruption now play a more central role in politics than at any other time. Governments have fallen, careers of world renowned public figures ruined, and reputations of well-respected organizations and business firms badly tarnished on account of it. The international mass media feeds on it and scandals and improper conduct, especially of those in high places, are looked upon as extremely newsworthy, and to be investigated with zeal and vigour. The rising trend in the use of corruption as a tool to discredit political opponents, the medias preoccupation with it as a highly marketable commodity, and the general publics fascination with seeing prominent personalities in embarrassing situations have brought scandalous and corrupt behaviour, a common human frailty, into the limelight of international attention.

Third and the main issue taken up in this paper is that corruption can be a major obstacle in the process of economic development and in modernizing a country. Many now feel that it should receive priority attention in a countrys development agenda. This greater recognition that corruption can have a serious adverse impact on development has been a cause for concern among developing countries. In a recent survey of 150 high level officials from 60 third world countries, the respondents ranked public sector corruption as the most severe obstacle confronting their development process (Gray and Kaufmann 1998).

Countries in the Asia and Pacific region are also very worried about this problem and they are in substantial agreement that corruption is a major constraint that is hindering their economic, political and social development, and hence view it as a problem requiring urgent attention at the highest level. Increasing public interest and concern over corruption have resulted in a large amount of scholarly research on the subject. Admittedly, there are still wide gaps in the current state of information and knowledge on the matter and much more remains to be done. Nevertheless, theoretical and empirical research that has been conducted thus far has yielded fresh insights into the problem. We now have a clearer understanding of the underlying causes of corruption, its consequences, and ideas and approaches on possible measures to combat it.

At the same time, a better perspective has been obtained on the reasons why corruption persists in so many countries, and why it is difficult to deal with, although people throughout the world view it with disfavour. This paper presents some ideas and issues that have emerged from the current discussion and ongoing debate on the corruption question in the region and around the world. It considers the causes, consequences and international dimensions of corruption, which seem to have generated a lot of public attention in many countries. Thoughts and suggestions on possible remedial measures have also been included as it would not be a fruitful exercise to only discuss issues and problems, without coming forward with some solutions as well. The aim of the paper is to create greater awareness of the subject and to highlight the desirability to keep it in view in thinking about development issues, especially in the context of a least developed country.


Definition In this paper, corruption is defined as the use of public office for private gain, or in other words, use of official position, rank or status by an office bearer for his own personal benefit. Following from this definition, examples of corrupt behaviour would include: (a) bribery, (b) extortion, (c) fraud, (d) embezzlement, (e) nepotism, (f) cronyism, (g) appropriation of public assets and property for private use, and (h) influence peddling. In this list of corrupt behaviour, activities such as fraud and embezzlement can be undertaken by an official alone and without involvement of a second party. While others such as bribery, extortion and influence peddling involve two parties the giver and taker in a corrupt deal. The two party type of corruption can arise under a variety of circumstances.

Often mentioned are concerned with the following: (i) Government contracts: bribes can influence who gets the contract, the terms of the contract, as well as terms of subcontracts when the project is implemented. Government benefits: bribes can influence the allocation of monetary benefits such as credit subsidies and favoured prices and exchange rates where price controls and multiple exchange rates exist. Bribes can also be important in obtaining licenses and permits to engage in lucrative economic activities such as importing certain goods in high demand and in short supply. Moreover, bribes can be employed to acquire in-kind benefits such as access to privileged schools, subsidized medical care, subsidized housing and real estate, and attractive ownership stakes in enterprises that are being privatized.

Government revenue: bribes can be used to reduce the amount of taxes, fees, dues, custom duties, and electricity and other public utility charges collected from business firms and private individuals. Time savings and regulatory avoidance: bribes can speed up the granting of permission, licenses and permits to carry out activities that are perfectly legal. This is the so-called grease money to turn the wheels of bureaucracy more smoothly, speedily and hopefully in the right direction. It is also not difficult to think of a really awful situation where rules and regulations, and the way they are applied, are so complex and burdensome that the only way left to get things done is to pay money to avoid them.

Influencing outcomes of legal and regulatory processes: bribes can be used to provide incentives to regulatory authorities to refrain from taking action, and to look the other way, when private parties engage in activities that are in violation of existing laws, rules and regulations such as those relating to controlling pollution, preventing health hazards, or promoting public safety as in the case of building codes and traffic regulations. Similarly, bribes can be given to favour one party over another in court cases or in other legal and regulatory proceedings.

Economic rent The concept of economic rent (or monopoly profit) occupies a central place in the literature on the subject of corruption. Economic rent arises when a person has something unique or special in his possession. This something special can be a luxury condominium in a posh neighbourhood, a plot of land in the central business district of the city, a natural resource like an oil well, or even some pleasing personal traits such as beauty and charm. A person who owns such a special asset can charge a more than normal price for its use and earn economic rent or monopoly profit. To illustrate, suppose there is a young lady who has breathtakingly good looks, a charming personality, and exceptional acting, singing and dancing skills.

Due to these special personal assets, she becomes a superstar and a heartthrob of teenagers all over the country and thus commands a princely sum for her appearances. But what exactly is her economic rent? To determine this, it is necessary to know the next best thing she can do to earn a living if she is not a superstar. Suppose she has a law degree so the next best occupation she can take up is to become a lawyer. Then the difference between her income as a superstar and the earnings she can obtain from her next best occupation (as a lawyer), is her economic rent for having an unusually pretty face, charm, and superb singing, dancing and acting talents a winning combination which no other young lady in the country can match. A similar line of reasoning can be applied to a minor bureaucrat working in the business license issuing office of a government ministry.

Suppose this bureaucrat has the responsibility of typing, stamping the official seal, getting the appropriate signatures and delivering the authorization letter that grants permission to business enterprises to engage in a certain line of economic activity. Business executives are anxious to have the letter typed expeditiously and correctly, and have it properly stamped, signed, sealed and delivered and are willing to pay a price for this special service. Hence the bureaucrat who has a monopoly of typing, stamping and processing the letter can use his official position to acquire economic rent from his clients. A useful approach to find out the amount of his economic rent is to think of what he can earn if he is fired from the licensing office.

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