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Saturday, 18 December 2010






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Government Gazette

On corruption et al

Corruption exists in our society. This is generally accepted by everybody including law-makers and law enforcing authorities. Hardly a day passes without the media exposing some instance of corruption somewhere.

While the emphasis is on corruption in the public sector few talk about corruption in the private sector or the ways in which the latter collude with the former in corrupt deals.

Corruption not only exists but also is widespread. There is almost no sector that has not been affected by it. It has also permeated to all strata of society from the elite to the rank and file worker. In fact, it is so widespread and common that many take it as granted, as a matter of fact. They would be surprised only if there were no corruption.

Since wealth and power are often associated with the corrupt, very often public at large feel impotent. The impunity enjoyed by powerful politicos and bureaucrats charged with corruption is another factor that has led to public apathy.

The relative weakness of the legal structures established to combat the menace of corruption and their resource constraints, both physical and human, also contribute to the enhancement of public apathy.

A recent study done in India gives a theoretical explanation for the prevalence of corruption in that country. Since the situation is not too different from what is found in Sri Lanka it would be interesting to ponder for a while on the Indian scene.

Currently the Indian media highlights two scams. One concerns 2G spectrum sales. The other is about the disposal of land by State officials. Both instances were cases of alleged misuse of powers by high State officials. In both instances the sale prices were deliberately lowered allowing the recipient private businessmen and the State officials to gain huge profits. This exposes a new method of surplus accumulation by high-ranking State officials and businessmen in the name of de-regulation or State-private sector collaboration.

The loss due under pricing in the 2G deal is estimated at Indian Rs 17.6 billion. The Global Integrity Program has estimated the loss to India due to illicit capital transfers abroad by local and foreign business concerns during 1948 - 2008 to be $ 213 billion. Of them 68 percent has occurred after the liberalization in 1991.

This shows that contrary to opinion of many experts deregulation and liberalization is accompanied by rampant corruption. Thus corruption is endemic to the economic model that is being advocated by international financial institutions and economic experts. Some of the ways in which capital is sent out are strictly not illegal due to shortcomings in law.

From the foregoing it is seen that the struggle against corruption requires a multi-faceted approach. Obviously it is necessary to tighten the screws by revising and updating the relevant law and regulations to prevent underhand dealings by State officials and private sector entrepreneurs.

Also necessary is to make all dealings transparent and open to public scrutiny. Often politicians are misled by interested officials into authorizing shady deals. Parliamentary oversight should be strengthened and quick follow up actions should be taken in case of misdeeds.

Corruption will remain as long as there is a conducive atmosphere for it and as long as the wealthy and the powerful could get away with it using either political or monetary clout. It is only small scale corruption that would fall into the hands of law enforcement officials while the kingpins would go scot-free.

The long arm of the law has not yet reached the culprits in many noted scams such as the VAT scam. The sooner the guilty are punished and deterrent action taken against similar instances, the better it is for the country.

It is also important and necessary to make people aware of the loss to the nation and the country due to corruption. Unfortunately there are no civic minded public action groups fighting against corruption. There is also no practice of public interest litigation as in India. In all these areas Sri Lanka is still backward.

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