Are we on way to become Banana Republic | by Rashid A Mughal


Are we on way to become Banana Republic

THE other day a friend asked me are we on our way to become a Banana Republic ?. Frankly speaking, I had no ready answer.

I did some soul searching and looked at our past history and record since independence in 1947. It is a heart breaking story.

We have tried Democracy- Presidential and Parliamentary system, dictatorship, all are fraught with corruption.

The recent Senate elections bear an eloquent testimony that corruption has gone so deep in our system that it is impossible to eliminate it from society.

Be it politics, civil service, business — all are engulfed in this endemic.

More shocking is the fact that it is thriving with every day passing rather than vanishing from various segments of society.

Rules are different for rich and poor and those in power, control the state resources and use it for their personal gains and enrichment.

Banana Republic is the one in which we find all the above pervasive, dominant and order of the day.

So I leave the choice to readers to decide whether we are heading for becoming one.

Corruption is a disease, a cancer that eats into the cultural, political and economic fabric of society, and destroys the functioning of vital organs.

In the words of Transparency International, “Corruption is one of the greatest challenges of the contemporary world.

It undermines good government, fundamentally distorts public policy, leads to the misallocation of resources, harms the private sector and private sector development and particularly hurts the poor”.

Corruption is found almost everywhere, but it is stubbornly entrenched in the poor countries of Sub-Saharan Africa, it is widespread in Latin America, it is deeply rooted in many of the newly industrialized countries in Asia and it is reaching alarming proportions in several of the post-communist countries.

Corruption has been the subject of a substantial amount of theorizing and empirical research over the last 30-40 years, and this has produced a bewildering array of alternative explanations, typologies and remedies.

However, as an extensively applied notion in both politics and social sciences, corruption is being used rather haphazardly.

Corruption is understood as everything from the paying of bribes to civil servants in return for some favours and the theft of public purses, to a wide range of dubious economic and political practices in which politicians and bureaucrats enrich themselves and any abusive use of public power to a personal gain.

Besides, corruption is in itself a many-faceted phenomenon and the concept of corruption contains too many connotations to be analytically functional without a closer definition.

The forms of corruption are diverse in terms of who are the actors, initiators and profiteers, how it is done, and to what extent it is practised.

Also the causes and the consequences of corruption are complex and diverse, and have been sought in both individual ethics and civic cultures, in history and tradition, in the economic system, in the institutional arrangements, and in the political system.

The issue of corruption has, to some extent, entered the political and economic sciences from the new interest in the role of the State in the developing world, and in particular from the idea that the State is an indispensable instrument for economic development.

In contrast to the largely rejected “State-dominated” and “State-less” development models, there is now much consensus on the relevance of an efficient medium-sized State in economic development.

The 1997 World Development Report stated that “an effective state is vital for the provision of the goods and services – and the rules and institutions – that allow markets to flourish and people to lead healthier, happier life.

Without it, sustainable development, both economic and social is impossible” (The World Bank 1997:1).

Corruption has come up as a thematic constituent of this renewed paradigm, in which development necessitates economic reform, which is again dependent on political and administrative reforms like good governance and civil service reforms (CRS), accountability, human rights, multi-party system and democratization.

Besides, very high levels of corruption has been observed where the government is regarded as illegitimate in the eyes of the population (implying widespread disrespect for legal procedures), and in countries where the State plays an interventionist role in the economy.

The role of the State and of politics is, therefore, essential to understand corruption as the State is always involved.

The decisive role of the state is also reflected in most definitions of corruption.

A somewhat updated version with the same elements is found in the definition by an eminent scholar who defines it as “behaviour that deviates from the formal rules of conduct governing the actions of someone in a position of public authority because of private-regarding motives such as wealth, power, or status”.

In other words, corruption is a particular (and, one could say, perverted) state-society relation.

On the one side is the state that is the civil servants, functionaries, bureaucrats and politicians, anyone who holds a position of authority to allocate rights over (scarce) public resources in the name of the state or the government.

Corruption is when these individuals are misusing the public power they are bestowed with for private benefit.

The corrupt act is when this responsible person accepts money or some other form of reward, and then proceeds to misuse his official powers by returning undue favours.

For instance, it is an act of corruption when a State official takes a bribe to render some public service that is supposed to be free of charge or demands more than the official cost of it.

The involvement of State officials in corruption is also emphasised in an alternative definition, where corruption is seen as “a form of secret social exchange through which those in power (political or administrative) take personal advantage, of one type or another, of the influence they exercise in virtue of their mandate or their function.

In sum, almost every definition (or rather conceptualization) of corruption has a principal focus on the state and politics (“the corrupted”), and a “demand-oriented” perspective.

On the other side of a corrupt act is nevertheless the “supply side”, and some theories and conceptualizations exist that emphasize the “corrupters”, those who offer the bribes, and the advantages they gain.

These suppliers are the general public, or – in other words – the non-state society.

The counterparts to the corrupt officials are any non-governmental and non-public individual, corporate and organizational, domestic and external.

If we look around us in our beloved country of pure, we find rampant corruption, ignoring the deserving and meritorious in jobs, auction and selection of low calibre individuals who are promoted out-of-turn and rewarded with prized posts and total disregard of rule of law.

What is needed is a collective effort of society to fight this menace, otherwise our coming generations will suffer a lot.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.