Time to clear the underbrush of bribery
New efforts around the world signal a moment to make headway against corruption
Stories telling how employees of the just shuttered “The News of the World” newspaper in Britain had possibly colluded with Scotland Yard in inappropriate ways, including payments to police, are just one recent troubling example of corruption in business and government. One need only Google “bribery” for plenty of other fresh examples around the world.Skip to next paragraph
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Ironically, Britain just put into effect July 1 a new Bribery Act that aims to clean up its ways of operating. It’s the latest follow up to the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977, which has had a worldwide effect by demanding that US businesses not pay bribes overseas.
The extent of global corruption is undoubtedly massive, though hard to quantify. How much more does a project cost because of invisible bribes? What worthless “white elephant” projects are approved?
Such corruption can scare away foreign investment and reduce economic growth. A corrupt country’s economic growth rate can be .5 to 1 percentage points lower than that of a similar country with low corruption, according to the World Bank.
Exact figures on losses from corruption can be elusive, but from time to time some numbers have been put forward. For example, China’s central bank recently estimated that more than $120 billion had been stolen by employees of government enterprises since the mid-1990s.
Now for the good news: Governments and civic activists are recognizing the need to combat bribery – and vigorously.
Governments have only to look to the streets of the Arab world where outrage over government corruption has inspired angry protests and even toppled rulers.
In the world’s two most populous countries, China and India, hundreds of millions of people expect to be lifted out of their poverty through economic growth. Officials in both countries are recognizing that corruption will hold them back.