I was shocked the other day to read that Canada had slipped from sixth place to tenth place on Transparency International’s 2011 Corruption Perceptions Index. Many people assume that their own country does not suffer from corruption the way so many countries do.
I have taught in many countries in the world, and in my experience each new country where I have lived for long periods of time was even more corrupt than the previous ones. Was Canada now to join their ranks?
Not yet. Transparency International still considers Canada to be among the least corrupt nations in the world.
The corruption index scores 183 countries and territories from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (very clean) based on perceived levels of public-sector corruption. It uses data from 17 surveys that look at factors such as enforcement of anti-corruption laws, access to information and conflicts of interest.
While two-thirds of ranked countries scored less than 5, New Zealand ranked first, followed by Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Singapore, Norway, Netherlands, Australia, Switzerland and then Canada. Last year Canada ranked sixth with a score of 8.9 compared to this year’s 8.7.
If one examines earlier reports, Canada's score is now the same that it was for several years previously. Last year's score was among the highest that Canada has received; only in 2003 was it higher (9.0).
In the past year several cases of corruption in Canada were revealed, including the case of Calgary oil and gas company, Niko Resources, paying nearly $9.5 million in fines and penalties after admitting in court that it had bribed a Bangladeshi government minister.
In addition to the Niko case, there has been new information about corruption in Canada: an inquiry into former prime minister Brian Mulroney’s business dealings with lobbyist Karlheinz Schreiber, as well as the RCMP investigations of a number of companies, many of which the public knows nothing about.
But there have been no prosecutions for international corruption in Canada up until this past year for all intents and purposes. Thus it is significant that Canada did not slip any further in the new rankings.
The 2011 rankings can be read here. The page is too long and detailed to publish on this post.
The 2010 report showing the degree of corruption around the globe
The word ‘corrupt’ has Latin origins. When used as an adjective, it means "utterly broken." Corruption occurs when people abuse a position of power, whether as a policeman, a politician or a businessman.
Forms of corruption vary, but include bribery, extortion, cronyism, nepotism, patronage, graft, embezzlement, and electoral fraud. Worldwide, bribery alone is estimated to involve over 1 trillion US dollars annually.
In the US alone, corruption costs more than 100 billion dollars . This money could be put to much better use as, for example, for education or housing. Through predatory lending, consumers end up taking out loans that they cannot afford, have deceptive or unclear terms in them, or which cost more than necessary and may ultimately lead to the loss of their homes.
Governments are often complicit in corruption by not properly regulating these practices. As I mentioned in a recent post, the 1% control who control the government use this power to line their own pockets, while the 99% suffer. The rich get richer at enormous cost to the poor.
Contemporary society tries to whitewash these sins, however. The greedy people of this world, who thrive in a corrupt atmosphere, are only too glad to receive absolution, so that they can continue with their nefarious deeds unimpeded.
Unfortunately for them, but fortunately for everyone else, much of the world is waking up to the consequences of corruption. Many countries have organized campaigns against corruption. India is just one example. Corruption carries enormous costs for everyone.
This Chinese poster, even if one cannot read it, cleverly illustrates the benefits of fighting corruption.
Corruption prevails wherever there is money involves, especially large sums of money, as in sports, for example.
Attempts to clean up the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (International Federation of Association Football), commonly known by the acronym FIFA, have largely been window dressing, intended to achieve the recent reelection of Joseph Blatter as the head of the federation.
The judiciary in many countries is suspect when it comes to corruption. In many countries where I have worked, it was common knowledge that the winner in any judicial dispute was the person who paid the judge the most. Justice is for sale, which is something the Bible also condemns.
Corruption is rampant in many developing countries. In countries like Nigeria, the rent from natural resources such as oil ends up in private pockets rather than government coffers. Sometimes, unfortunately, they are the same. Moreover, corruption can destroy any progress that reforms make.
Most people in the world realize that corruption is wrong. They can see it destroy their families and their communities. But these people feel powerless.
They need the help of people in the developed world, where corruption also exists, but is minimal in comparison. They need the moral support of all those who realize that corruption is wrong and are willing to fight in order to stop it.
But corruption is difficult to eradicate. Surrounding it, and defending it, is a culture of corruption. This culture can take different forms.
In Nigeria, for example, people expect politicians to bring financial benefits to the communities that elected them. A politician who does not do that is a poor politician, in both senses of the word.
Government officials who do want to behave honestly are either posted to some remote hamlet where they can no longer upset the apple cart of their greedy superiors, or they are eliminated permanently.
Corruption is practiced by every level of society. Nigeria is noted for its infamous "nail boys," who stop vehicles on the road and extort money for contrived offences. The best way to avoid them is to drive on Sundays, when these boys are in church.
These boys, as well as all the corrupt people in Nigeria, do not realize the disconnect between their faith on Sunday and their behavior the rest of the week.
In the universities there it is well known that officials often use their positions to enrich themselves, while the rest of the country winks at their malfeasance.
Business is conducted in the same unethical way. One cannot succeed without such nefarious practices, it is claimed. Those who do want to remain honest are victimized until they too give in.
Corrupt and unethical companies, universities, and individuals thrive in the darkness of public ignorance and apathy.
What people in developing countries can do is first of all take back the power in their own country, and educate themselves with information on how corruption can be exposed, and excised.
Then they can help those in other countries to do the same. No man is an island; we live in communities, also as nations. We must help each other; otherwise corruption is never going to stop.
I will conclude with a selection of quotations about corruption. I could add many more, but these should help to motivate us, I hope.
Corruption has its own motivations, and one has to thoroughly study that phenomenon and eliminate the foundations that allow corruption to exist. Eduard Shevardnadze
Corruption is like a ball of snow, once it's set a rolling it must increase. Charles Caleb Colton
Corruption is nature's way of restoring our faith in democracy. Peter Ustinov
Corruption is worse than prostitution. The latter might endanger the morals of an individual, the former invariably endangers the morals of the entire country. Karl Kraus
Corruption never has been compulsory. Anthony Eden
Corruption, the greatest single bane of our society today. Olusegun Obasanjo
Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty. Edward Gibbon