Corruption of few should not be allowed to malign image of many

Editorial: NewAge, September 28, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The Berlin-based Transparency International has published its latest Corruption Perceptions Index which shows a slight improvement in Bangladesh’s position although the score remained the same, which indicates that despite the apparent improvement the situation remains as bad as before. While a section of society has repeatedly disapproved of the status of, and rejected the conclusion about Bangladesh, economists have questioned the methodology and the process through which the rankings are arrived at. It has also been pointed out that the index is merely an indicator of perception, as opposed to the actual institutional corruption.

We agree that the perception index is hardly an objective indicator of corruption, lacking a robust and rigorous methodology, but at the same time, it cannot be denied that corruption pervades all spheres and levels of public life in Bangladesh. Through the years government offices and public services have become increasingly corrupt. However, it should also be pointed out that corruption in government offices, which is the matter of greatest concern to us, is fuelled to a large part by foreign multinationals, foreign investors and even the international financial institutions.

As for the report of the corruption watchdog, we should regard it no more or less than an indicator of how some sections of the people think about the government as regards corruption. But perception is important too. Regardless of the real situation, countries placed at the top as free of corruption enjoy a better image and will naturally enjoy an advantage in terms of business and commerce.

The perception that naturally arises out of such reports is one that subsequently becomes applied to the entire nation although most of the general people are only victims of this corruption. As such the corruption index should further qualify that it is the ruling sections who are corrupt and not the populace in general. The ruling elites have no right to malign the character of the entire nation either.

The citizens, civil society as well as ruling governments should become more aware of this and gradually strive for more transparency and accountability in public offices as well as bringing about a change in the perception, which is only imposed upon us. But efforts to weed out corruption overnight would naturally result in economic slowdown – as Bangladesh is currently witnessing – in any country in a similar phase of economic transition. There must be a concerted plan to fight corruption and the targets should include businessmen and bureaucrats alike, not just politicians. The drive to eliminate corruption should also focus on the irregularities and illicit deals involving projects of foreign corporations, or those funded by agencies and organisations based in the developed countries, who not only export corruption but in fact encourage it to ensure their commercial interests.

As for the real challenge, which is to rid the system of corruption to a level as may be reasonable in the current context, the military-driven interim government should deal with the matter comprehensively and not target a certain section of the guilty parties.

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