For years the Integrity Initiative tries to create Integrity Nation, a nation where transparency and integrity rule and corruption is no longer part of everybody’s life. Have we succeeded? Obviously not, if you read the latest Corruption Perception Index, published by Transparency International, in which the Philippines scored 34 out of 100 and a ranking of 111th out of 180 countries.
Given the indication that business does not like corruption, but unfortunately—at the same time—is not willing to financially support anticorruption, it may be useful to highlight once again how corruption hurts and convince society at large or better—every individual —to fight corruption and make a choice to only deal with companies that evidently are involved in anticorruption and have been verified or even certified that they adhere to transparency in business and implemented anti-bribery and anticorruption policies.
Let’s be very clear that corruption impacts all of us in many ways. The pain corruption creates can be divided into four categories—political, economic, social and environmental:
■ Politically, corruption is a major obstacle to democracy and the rule of law. Remember the formula I wrote about before: Corruption = monopoly + discretion – accountability? In a democratic system, offices and institutions should lose their legitimacy when they are misusing their influence for personal advantage. As we see on a daily basis, it is extremely challenging to develop accountable political behaviour in a corrupt environment.
Economically, corruption depletes national wealth (that belongs to the people). Corrupt officials invest scarce public resources in projects that will line their pockets rather than benefit communities. Corruption also hinders the development of fair market structures and distorts competition.
Socially, corruption is exploitive. Inequality breeds corruption by:
■ Leading ordinary citizens to see a system as stacked against them;
■ Creating a sense of dependency among ordinary citizens and a sense of pessimism for the future, which, in turn, undermines the moral dictates of treating everybody honestly; and
■ Distorting the key institutions of fairness in society, the courts, which ordinary citizens see as their protectors against evil-doers, especially those with more influence than they have.
Corruption aggravates inequality: the well-off can afford bribes, but the poor often do without basic services. Inequality, trust and corruption form a vicious circle that is very difficult to break. There is one institutional factor that has a big impact on corruption: the fairness of the legal system. This is an institutional measure of inequality: whether courts and the police treat people of different backgrounds and incomes as equals before the law. This is the reason we support the Judicial Reform Initiative started by Finex, and seriously trust that the independence of the judicial system is not compromised.
Let me conclude by saying that working against corruption is everybody’s mandate. As we at the Integrity Initiative say: Integrity starts with I. Every person must make the decision: I am part of the solution. I will contribute to positive change. Because, if you don’t do it, you are part of the problem.
Comments are more than welcome—contact me at [email protected].