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The kleptocrats who steal from us

We hope that corruption will one day be a thing of the distant past

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Although transparency will not single-handedly eliminate corruption, it will certainly make the system more robust and more in line with our democratic values, says Syerleena Abdul Rashid.

Alwyn Moerdyk, a lecturer in organisational psychology at Rhodes University, highlighted that in many countries, culture was frequently used to justify blatant acts of corruption.

Moerdyk noted the “act of giving is a natural process for humans and is an expression of gratitude for a benefit received or to cement a relationship. And while some societies claim that gift-giving is ‘part of our culture’, there was no need for outsiders to confuse it with bribery.”

However, one should understand the hidden motives behind these acts – depending on the size or amount of such gifts, the purpose of cementing existing relationships and to forge new ones can be a tricky issue that has caused many sleepless nights for many elected reps and government officials.

Economic prosperity and socio-political progress can only be achieved when governments are transparent and accountable to the people. Democracy upholds the firm notion that the rule of law is sanctified above everything else, and the practice of corruption only destroys the foundations of democracy.

In a poll conducted by the BBC, which surveyed more than 13,000 in 26 different countries, results show that corruption is the world’s most frequently discussed global problem – more than one in five (21%) of those polled said they had discussed corruption and greed with friends and family over the past month, climate change trailed behind at 20%, while unemployment stood at 18%.

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Corrupt practices and especially corrupt officials are the main reason why systems become incredibly inefficient and incompetent. The abuse of public power for private benefit leads to the rich and corrupt becoming even richer at the expense of the honest and poor.

In February 2014, reports surfaced of a six-month graft probe into 60 policemen who were allegedly involved in corruption and money laundering. It was discovered that approximately RM20m had been accumulated in several bank accounts.

The Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) stated that the policemen were “alleged to have collected bribes from various illegal businesses, ranging from illegal gaming cybercafes to massage parlours and vice dens. Depending on the type of business, each operator paid between RM10,000 and RM50,000 a month to the policemen to avoid being raided and hassled.”

It really is breathtaking how corrupt we have become, and we have major scandals like 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) to remind us just how ugly kleptocracy has become. It is a blatant threat against democracy and rule of law in developing countries like ours because corruption destabilises financial accountability; it suppresses economic performance whileit  dissuades foreign investment and destroys trust in our judiciary.

Kleptocrats have lined their own pockets instead of funding a nation’s development – forget roads, schools, and hospitals. Such high-level corruption undermines the constitution and more so the people.

It is a development issue simply because fraudulence makes it difficult for us to fight for social progress and political reforms. Given the amount of exposes made, corruption has become so endemic in our society that most Malaysians have accepted it as normal or in Malaysian terms “biasa la tu”.

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Nevertheless, increased transparency in government has produced some positive results, although it is still a work in progress. It has increased civic engagement in government and more so, it can restore some level of trust.

Regardless of the practical challenges that may exist, transparency will improve the overall level of deliberation and examining frameworks needed to facilitate good governance that is synonymous with democracy.

Although transparency will not single-handedly eliminate corruption, it will certainly make the system more robust and more in line with our democratic values.

Source: The Malaysian Insider

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