Ok, now I have your attention, here in the UK, BBC 2 is running a theme over a few days about corruption around the world but also in the UK itself. Apparently one in four people have recently paid some form of bribe or sweetener to someone in a position of power to get something done.
Well this is hardly news is it? Let’s look at a couple of examples of states around the world.
Let us start with the Ukraine, it’s a beautiful place with a long tradition of culture and cool architecture. There is also a massive mafia presence in the country but this is not as simple as it at first seems. A number of years ago the bosses of some of the mafia factions realized that running around on the streets with guns, killing each other and always looking over their shoulders possibly wasn’t the smartest way to get the things they needed.
Their solution was simple, they put on smart suits and became bankers and politicians. Viktor Yanukovich, the current president and former Prime Minister has done time several times for robbery, fraud and assault while former Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko has been accused of money laundering and extortion and he has been held for money laundering while trying to cross to Switzerland using a valid Panamanian passport. He has been named the eighth most corrupt public figure in recent history by Transparency international.
Then let’s take Cambodia. Cambodia went through years of civil war and genocide and many of the figures in power are the self same figures involved in much of the countries problems. On a smaller scale the police are an almost totally ineffective body known to take bribes to make sure the most basic policing duties get carried out while there are also allegations that they, and certain generals, are heavily involved in the export of drugs and the running of brothels, all this of course is just, allegedly! I am making no sweeping statements of truth here.
Then again on the other side, most people don’t pay any form of income tax so maybe if they need to get someone investigated then maybe paying the police to do so is a quite direct, honest way of doing things? A kind of pay as you go income tax?
I’ve only mentioned two countries here but I really could go on to include most of the countries in the world, everywhere from Nigeria to India and Bangladesh to Uruguay.
Here in the west however we have politicians and bankers who are all above board and transparent right? Well it does seem as though they manage to find ways to profit from their position and from their groups of like minded friends and peers. The proportion of politicians and bankers who are millionaires and have intricate networks of powerful mates to help them fill their pockets is frankly staggering.
No, we are not less corrupt in the west at all, we have just had to become more sophisticated at doing the same things, which is exactly what will happen as the developing countries take on board more anti corruption laws. It is our human nature to want to line our nests and as it has been said:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834–1902)