Corruption often conjures up images of people getting rich. But in fact, corruption’s connections to poverty are far more numerous and pervasive. Corruption delays, distorts and diverts economic growth. It comes in a variety of forms, and while no two countries are alike, there are common dilemmas for all to see.
The links between corruption and poverty affect both individuals and businesses, and they run in both directions: poverty invites corruption, while corruption deepens poverty. Corruption both causes and thrives upon weaknesses in key economic, political and social institutions. It is a form of self-serving influence akin to a heavily regressive tax, benefiting the haves at the expense of the have-nots. Trust–essential to financial markets and effective governments everywhere–is difficult to build in poor and corrupt societies.
The effects of corruption are personal and they are devastating. Corruption leaves children without mothers, families without healthcare, people without food, the elderly without security, and businesses without capital.
That is why on December 9, the tenth anniversary of International Anti-Corruption Day, we need to make sure that the message is sounded loud and clear: you can’t beat poverty if you don’t stop corruption.
We strongly believe that introducing a “governance goal” that can be tracked and that allows citizens to hold their governments to account is a prerequisite for ending poverty in all countries.
Within the framework of a governance goal, targets should be set for increasing the participation of people in decision making, making public spending and budgets more transparent, and making law enforcers and public services answerable to ordinary people.
Part of this would be a requirement for governments to publish key data on spending. Simply getting the information out there would be a good first step. Today only a fifth of the 49 lesser developed countries have access to information laws.
2.5 billion people still live in poverty. This is not sustainable. By 2030 the population will reach 8.5 billion. This is a global issue: no country is without poor people or without corruption. In the latest Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index that measures how corrupt the public sector is perceived to be, two-thirds of the 177 countries ranked scored less than 50 on a scale where 100 is considered clean. The average score of the world’s least developed countries is 28.
The world cannot turn a blind eye to the corruption that keeps people poor. The sad death of Nelson Mandela, a man recognized around the world for his values of inclusiveness, hope and the centrality of human dignity, reminds us that improving the lot of all people should always be at the center of our work. Now more than ever before, as we enter the next phase of the drive to eradicate extreme poverty, we must have the will to put an end to corruption.
To End Poverty, You Have to End Corruption
by: Ammar Ali