Everything you've wanted to know about RP politics, but were afraid to ask.

Mla. Times Editorial: We have blatant and quiet corruption

Posted by akosistella on March 16, 2010

CORRUPTION in the Philippines was again highlighted when Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) released the results of its annual survey.

PERC polled 2,174 respondents, expatriate business executives doing business in the Asia-Pacific region.

Their opinions about corruption indicators in 16 Asia-Pacific economies were gathered, based on which each of the 16 economies was graded. “Economies” actually means “countries” or “states,” except that Hong Kong and Macau are not and PERC would be in the bad books of Beijing if it called Taiwan a country or a state.

On a scale of zero to 10, zero is the best possible score. It means the respondents saw that economy as having the lowest level of corruption among politicians and civil servants.

Our country—with a score of 8.06—fell two rungs down and became fourth most corrupt economy. Worse than us in the opinion of the expatriate respondents are Vietnam (score: 8.07), Cambodia (score 9.10) and Indonesia (score 9.27).

The economies above us are Singapore (score 1.42), which is No. 1 on the PERC list and therefore the least corrupt, Australia (score 2.28), Hong Kong, 2.67, the United States (score 3.42), Japan (score 3.49), Macau (score 4.96), South Korea (score 5.98), Taiwan (score 6.28), Malaysia (score 6.47), China (score 6.52), India (score 7.18), and Thailand, (score 7.60), which is directly above us and therefore fifth most corrupt.

But this is no longer real news.

Year after year, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, a number of United Nations agencies, the United States Department of State, the monitoring bodies for the Millennium Development Goals, PERC and other survey groups have all seen how “active” corruption has been impoverishing the Philippines and holding it back from being a more successful economic achiever than it is now.

What’s new is the World Bank’s new thrust in the observation of corruption. The global lender is now looking intently at “quiet corruption.”

Quiet corruption does poor more harm

The World Bank defines “quiet corruption” as “the failure of public servants to deliver goods or services paid for by governments.”

It released yesterday the report Africa Development Indicators 2010.

The report notes that most studies on corruption focus on an exchange of money—bribes to powerful political operators or kickbacks to public officials. This new report instead focuses on the way “quiet corruption” leads to an increasingly negative expectation of service delivery systems, causing families to ignore the system.

Quiet corruption, although smaller in monetary terms, is particularly harmful for the poor, says the World Bank. The poor are more vulnerable and more reliant on government services and public systems to satisfy their most basic needs. They suffer when they don’t get these services.

“Quiet corruption does not make the headlines the way bribery scandals do, but it is just as corrosive to societies,” said Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist for the World Bank’s Africa Region. “Tackling quiet corruption will require a combination of strong and committed leadership, policies and institutions at the sectoral level, and—most important—increased accountability and participation by citizens.”

The WB report finds that quiet corruption is pervasive and widespread across Africa and is having a disproportionate effect on the poor, with long-term consequences for development.

The new report presents data and research on quiet corruption in the health, education, and agriculture sectors.

Some examples:

• A 2004 report found that 20 percent of teachers in rural western Kenyan primary schools could not be found during school hours, while in Uganda, two surveys found teacher absentee rates of 27 percent in 2002 and 20 percent in 2007.

• Poor controls at the producer and wholesaler levels resulted in 43 percent of the analyzed fertilizers sold in West Africa in the 1990s lacking the expected nutrients, meaning that they were basically ineffective.

• More than 50 percent of drugs sold in drugstores in Nigeria in the 1990s were counterfeit, according to some studies.

• In a direct observation survey of Ugandan health care providers, there was a 37 percent absenteeism rate in 2002 and 33 percent in 2003.

Among the most damaging effects of quiet corruption are its long-term consequences. A child denied a proper education by absentee teachers is likely to have low cognitive skills and poor health as an adult. No drugs and doctors results in hundreds even thousands of deaths from malaria and other diseases. Farmers frustrated by low yields caused by diluted fertilizers could turn away from fertilizers forever and become victims of low-productivity agriculture.

Africa Development Indicators 2010 explains, with tables and figures, why quiet corruption greatly hinders the achievement of long and short term development goals. The WB report offers some solutions. It expresses the hope that “shining a light on the problem of quiet corruption will begin a wider debate and hasten the push for solutions.”

Very painfully for us Filipinos, seeing the data and reading about the effects of quiet corruption on poor Africans are like seeing conditions in our own poor provinces and communities.


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