We all know that corruption is not a new phenomenon. documented evidences of corruption have been found in the mythological epics of most of the parts of the world. Corruption continues to be in limelight, probably more in the developing economies of the East than the developed ones of the West.Infact the picture often painted with respect to corruption is, that of a Clean West and a chaotic, murky and Corrupt East.
Corruption, like many other things, is tough to define in definite terms. For the sake of simplicity we would limit the scope here to, offerings of cash and kind in order to gain personal benefits. This is the most widely recognized and experienced form of corruption. I want to point out here that, while the developing countries of the east are seeing rapid increase of corrupt practices, the west cannot claim any moral superiority over the matter. On the contrary West has long been known for finding innovative ways to continue corrupt practices yet make it look clean and transparent on the outside. Also, the results of such corrupt practices are far-reaching and affect millions way beyond the boundaries of country where they are perpetrated.It is a known fact now that, the West at large had almost legalized methods of corruption and conveniently gave it the name of Lobbying. Lobbying as a concept had existed from early 19th century and became more prevalent and popular post The Great Depression of 1938. The so-called Cartels [Oil, Weapon, Pharmaceuticals etc.] appointed lobbyists to influence Senators/Congressmen/Parliamentarians and get favorable legislations passed in the Congress/Parliament. Benefits were mutual, the Cartels got benefits like
- Lower taxes
- Ability to bribe officials to gain contracts in other countries and claim tax benefit on it in their country of origin
- Gain Overseas and Domestic Government Contracts
- Lower interest rates for Loans
- Prevent unfavorable laws from being legislated
Every favor done to the respective Cartels, the legislators got either
- Election Funds
- Party Funds
- An Influential position in Private Sector
One would argue that in the East corruption impacts ordinary people and in the West it is restricted to the upper echelons of the power equation. One could also argue that in the East we have to bribe even if we have to obtain a birth certificate, whereas in the West such hassles don’t exist. Here I would like to present some facts that would indicate how debilitating the corrupt practices of west could be, way beyond the effect of corruption that the East sees from day-to-day.
- The strong lobbying of the rich and influential in the USA has ensured very low taxes for them compared to the middle class, often referred by Warren Buffet as key point to look into. Thus increasing the tax burden on ordinary people to meet the deficit and fund Government expenditure
- Strong lobbying by the Banks ensured near 0% interest rates and almost free supply of money across the world leading to an indiscreet granting of loans starting early 2000. It also ensured removal of regulations on banking and mortgages which led to the bloodbath of 2008, the ripple effects of which are still being felt.
- Strong lobbying by Banks ensured huge bailout packages at the expense of tax payers money leading to huge fiscal deficit, meaning reduced spending by Government on essential health care and other social benefits leading to job losses, reduced family income and expensive health care.
- Strong lobbying by Oil companies allowed BP to construct a reservoir with substandard material that eventually led to the oil spill and vast damage to the ecosystem.
All of the above have had far-reaching effect on not only the common man in the country where it originated but have spread to shores far beyond as a domino effect. The damage done is much more severe than what paying for a birth certificate could be. Doesn’t this smell like the same rotten stuff that one often associates with the East? Why then, do we perceive the West as more cleaner than the East? Aren’t they in the same rut as us? Aren’t we in a way suffering for corrupt practices committed way beyond our own shores?Ofcourse I am not justifying the corrupt practices of the east or indicating that it is better than that of the west. Both are equally condemnable and possibly tough to get rid off. There might be some merit in the thought of legalizing corruption and make it as transparent as possible. This is what the West has done and hence continue to be ranked high up in the Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index. Ofcourse the East has to deal with other factors, like literacy levels, before it could make any change in how the world perceives it.