What exactly is corruption?
Various authorities offer definitions of corruption. Transparency International (an organization committed to fighting corruption all over the world) defines it as ‘the misuse of entrusted power for private gain’. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as a willingness ‘to act dishonestly in return for money or personal gain’. However, the fact that there are different types of corruption makes it difficult to arrive at a single all-encompassing definition. There is a difference between bribing an official to do something legal (e.g. bribing a civil servant to speed up the process of acquiring a document of some sort) and bribing an official to do something illegal (e.g. bribing a teacher to give you a good mark in an exam when in fact you didn’t pass).
Why does it happen?
There are various reasons why corruption takes place and takes hold. Sometimes it is due to the fact that officials are simply not paid very much and so they need to supplement their salaries with money from bribes. Sometimes the bureaucratic system is set up in such a way that officials simply refuse to carry out their duties unless they are ‘encouraged’ by being offered bribes. In other cases it is actually part of the tradition and culture of a country to give and receive ‘gifts’ in order to get anything done. In some cases companies from less corrupt countries allegedly engage in bribery in order to do business in countries where corruption is the norm, otherwise they would not be able to operate successfully in those countries. It can be argued that if such companies did not bribe officials in the necessary countries then the economies of those countries would suffer because fewer companies would invest in them, thus making them poorer. On a smaller scale corruption is often just a result of people’s natural desire to ‘beat the system’. Mostly, corruption occurs in environments where it is tolerated and where the temptation is too strong to resist.
How does it affect us?
First and foremost paying bribes costs money, obviously, so it leaves you out of pocket. It can also cost people their health, if they cannot afford to bribe the necessary officials to receive medical treatment, or even, in extreme cases, their freedom or their lives. The economy and infrastructure of the whole country can suffer if officials and politicians are siphoning off funds intended for road-building, new schools and hospitals etc. in an effort to line their own pockets.
How can we fight it?
Obviously, the ordinary person in the street who tolerates a corrupt system would need to make a stand, refuse to pay bribes and blow the whistle on corrupt officials. Easier said than done in many cases! However, there are international organizations who are fighting to reduce corruption on a global level, with some measurable success – Transparency International, for example.
Ultimately, a significant reduction in corruption could be achieved if all sections of society (political, commercial and civil) worked together with common aims to achieve it.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. Corruption is often just a result of people’s __________ desire to ‘beat the system’.
2. Various authorities offer __________ of corruption.
3. It can also cost people their health, __________ they cannot afford to bribe the necessary officials to receive medical treatment.
4. There are various reasons why corruption takes place and takes __________.
5. __________ said than done in many cases!
6. The fact that there are different types of corruption makes it difficult to arrive at a __________ all-encompassing definition.
7. Corruption __________ in environments where it is tolerated and where the temptation is too strong to resist.
8. Ultimately, a __________ reduction in corruption could be achieved if all sections of society (political, commercial and civil) worked together with common aims to achieve it.
9. In other cases it is actually part of the __________ and culture of a country to give and receive ‘gifts’.