Corruption vs good governance
GOOD governance best flourishes in a corruption-free situation. Unfortunately, Pakistan is way down the last rung of the ladder on this account.
Corruption of all magnitudes— be it petty, moderate or mega-permeates all tiers of governance and all segments of society: public, private, political, judicial, commercial and even religious. Paradoxically corruption acts as the balancing market mechanism here in a vastly unregulated administrative paradigm. There exists surreal economic rationale for this give and take at the individual level, but the economic cost to the society is stupendous.
Corruption severely impacts the life of citizens through less return on resource use and adds manifold to their cost of living.
The genesis of corruption in Pakistan can be traced to the mega events of the 1940s, growing to monstrous proportions by the 1990s and the last decade. Serious attempts at accountability originated in the mid-1990s and fortified at the turn of the century farcically turned into tools of political patronage or victimisation. For the last two years, there is practically a legal vacuum at the national level.
Poor governance leads to and encourages and breeds corruption in a number of ways, for instance through bribery, extortion, nepotism, fraud and embezzlement. It reduces the efficiency on which the economy of a country depends upon, and by increasing the cost of investment, lowers the potential return. It also reduces the government’s resources and hence its capacity for investment.
Common to other South Asian countries, corruption in Pakistan is unique because it occurs upstream; it has wings which encourage flight of capital rather than wheels which encourage reinvestment.
For almost all the reforms introduced by the Musharraf government in governmental and administration fields, the basic assumption was that the society was sufficiently educated and hence eager and ready to change.
The assumption proved wrong and rocked the entire foundation of the reforms agenda as society proved to be ready for grabbing new opportunities but not to change its work ethics. If this society is to be saved, urgent and stringent measures need to be taken some of which are recommended as under:
1. Judgment of the Supreme Court against the NRO should be implemented in letter and in spirit.
2. Accountability should be started from the top.
3. A national anti-corruption commission should be set up as an independent watchdog.
4. End unnecessary or archaic discretionary laws.
5. Ensure time-bound actions in offices.
6. Use independent private sector auditors.
7. Involve people in diagnosing corrupt systems.
8. Advocate that all ‘illegal’ money and property transactions in industrialised countries are treated at par with drug money.
9. The problem of corruption is quite severe at the lower judiciary and a system of alternative dispute resolution needs to be worked out urgently.
10. Require public officials to declare their assets.
11. Community participation, especially of students, should be ensured.
12. Creating awareness, particularly about the adverse impact on everyone’s life, should be highlighted to mobilise the public against corruption.
13. Poverty alleviation and economic reforms should be focused on.
Good governance should not be limited to a political mantra but it should emerge as an elixir of hope for the hopeless. This is the only lesson we all need.
WAQAS ALI KHAN