Friday, January 11, 2008

The Evolution of Corruption

When I first arrived in this country it was very common to give small gifts to low level government officials to get things done. A bag of apples for the girls at the driving license office, a small amount for the upcountry policeman who pulled you over on an empty road for some sort of infringement or a New Year bottle of whiskey to the local municipal office.

I didn't really mind as I could afford it and these workers were on low wages. I had seen it all before in many third world countries. Now, as the country becomes wealthier, petty corruption at this level has almost disappeared. We even get number queuing tickets in government offices.

But corruption hasn't gone away. In fact there is probably more money involved than ever before but it is done mainly at the very top level of politicians and civil servants. It is done on payment for government contracts and people on both sides of the transactions become very wealthy. Word leaks out and we all know it is going on.

We will eventually reach the level where corruption becomes almost invisible; where all top government deals are done between friends, and friends of friends; where the old school tie rules; in fact we will become like the UK, but this will make the corruption even more costly to the country.

Shame, but at least Tony Blair can't legally start lobbying the government on behalf of JPMorgan for another six months, and he wouldn't break the law would he? And that Young Liberal, Peter Hain, wasn't promising any favours for that money he collected in the Labour deputy leader's election was he?

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