Jan 12, 2010


Mir Jamilur Rahman

The revelation by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the star-studded list of people who have been allotted Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) licenses has come as a great shock. Some of the names included in the list are the sons, daughters, sons-in-law and wives of powerful people. There are relatives of former heads of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB), ex-governors and high-ranking retired military officers: a banker who draws monthly salary of Rs1.5 million; a lawyer who charges Rs10 million to represent a client.

It is the worst example of political corruption and shows the all pervasive greed in our society. The people on the list are millionaires but they still want more. There is nothing wrong with making money, provided that it is done through legitimate means, and not surreptitiously through government patronage. Who is the culprit here? The one who benefits from the government largesse? Or the one who gives away the country's wealth to friends and relatives. Both, I think.

It is difficult to eradicate corruption from the society especially when the government itself promotes it. It is a centuries-old malady and the society is still looking for an answer. Twenty-four centuries ago, Kautiliya Chankia, advisor to the king of Taxila, enumerated 40 ways of stealing the king's money. He writes about this in his book, Arthasastra, advising the king that "If an officer has a large expenditure, he consumes state revenue." He says it is almost impossible to detect a corrupt officer. "Just as fish moving inside water cannot be known when drinking water; even so the officers carrying out works cannot be known when siphoning off money," he writes.

Chankia adds that it is impossible for an official not to taste the king's money: "Just as it is not possible to taste honey placed on the surface of the tongue, even so it is not possible for the one dealing with the money of the king (state) not to taste the money in however small a quantity."

Similarly, a favourite officer of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was notorious for demanding bribes. He was efficient and loyal, and the maharaja did not want to lose him. He posted him to River Ravi and ordered him to keep count of the waves. The maharaja thought there would be no opportunity for bribery now but he was wrong. The officer stopped all boat traffic crossing Ravi, explaining that boats' movement disturb the waves, which makes it impossible to carry out the count. The problem was resolved when the boatmen offered him bribes.

Political corruption is the use of legislated powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain. The experts are of the opinion that all forms of government, whether democratic or dictatorial, are susceptible to political corruption. Forms of corruption vary but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, and embezzlement. In some nations, corruption is so common that it has gained a formal status. The end point of political corruption is a kleptocracy, which means "rule by thieves."

A treatise written in 1896 describes the effects of corruption on politics, administration, and institutions. It says that corruption poses a serious development challenge. In the political realm, it undermines democracy and good governance by flouting or even subverting formal processes. Corruption in elections and in legislative bodies reduces accountability and distorts representation in policymaking; in the judiciary, it compromises the rule of law; and corruption in public administration results in the unfair provision of services. At the same time, it undermines the legitimacy of the government, and democratic values such as trust and tolerance.

1 comment:

  1. Hi, I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.
    Pakistan Yellow Pages