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 Examining the costs and benefits of corruption in developing countries

  Opinion — Analysis 
  The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


Examining the costs and benefits of corruption in developing countries  1.7.2012  
By Nabaz Shwany
Special to 

Nabaz Nawzad Shwany, Bachelor in Politics and International Relations.
Read more by the Author
July 1, 2012

Corruption is a phenomenon that public good uses for private gains. It happens in both private and public sectors. In term of government it’s defined as “the sale by government officials of government property for personal gain”. Also, it can happen in different ways and in different level from different positions and different countries, but this phenomenon is mainly widespread in developing countries. Even though, corruption is a worm within the body of society and cancer to economic and political development; but it can also be used as the cure for some people to sustain their life and maintain their economic advantages.

The major coast of corruption is increasing poverty and social and economic disparity because some officials take the control of the country resources and exploit public instead of distributing on society and creating job opportunity to their people. Because of corruption, Child mortality and hunger endangered the life of millions. In Angola, 1 out of 5 children die before they reach their fifth birthday and more than half of population lives with $1.5 a day. Hence, corruptions create social class and widen the gap between wealthy and poor and it causes further problem. For instance, the corrupted people send their sons and daughters to the world best universities, and other cannot even support their children to complete primary education. So, not only in terms of finance, but corruption creates disparity in education and other aspects of life. Moreover, corruption distorted the economic growth in developing countries and decelerates the paces of reconstruction and rebuilding. It’s the main obstacle of investment and discourages business. Resource curse is another cost of corruption. Most of the developing countries have massive oil reserve and other natural resources, but that oil created more problem and conflict rather than bringing prosperity for people. For instance, in Angola and Nigeria, oil is the main source for conflict, plus corrupted politicians monopolized oil industry and misappropriate public funds which created bourgeoisie and widespread poverty.

The most dangerous effect of corruption is when judiciary is corrupted. Law and justice is the base for development, justice, and civil society, but in developing countries corrupted people uses law to justify their illegal behaviors. For instance, In Burma when there is legal cases “Payments occurs to get a case registered, to get it lodged in court, to get it heard as scheduled, to receive copies of documents, to secure a conviction or acquittal, to get the case accepted on appeal, and so on”. Furthermore, in other developing countries there are many cases that government officials cooperatewith gang groups and Mafias. For instance, in Iraq they steal and sell petrol in black market, mostly ministers, Parliament members and other government officials involve in this business. Also, in Sudan officials support gang groups instead of exciting law and justice and encourage them to kill innocent people and steal public resources. That is clearly happening in Darfur were hundreds been killed by pro-government militias. Further, its also argued that in Colombia and Mexico officials have direct relationships with drug trailer to get certain concession without considering their moral responsibility and side effects on public.

Lacks of health care, education, school, infrastructure, social protection, regulation, routine are primarily consequences of corruption in developing world. The corrupted government experience shortage in budget. Besides, government is unable to provide education and schools particularly in rural areas. Other infrastructures like electricity, water supply, high ways, rail ways, sewage and so on. Thus, government unable to sustain, support and enhance the living condition. Also, corruption destroys love and patriotism. In the corrupted countries, people have no respect and trust to their government and have no desire to protect their countries from external threats. In contrast, they weaken their government and act accordingly as we have seen in the corrupted Egypt and Tunisia where people toppled their autocratic corrupted governments.

For the benefits, corruption can be used as a method to unite different political, ethnic, religious, and economic groups. Regardless to their differences, when there is corruption, conflict actors and people with different opinion and different political background come together and uphold their relationships in order to preserve their economic advantages. Thus, corruption is the key player in managing the problems in developing countries. Another advantage of corruption is transferring wealth and capital from upper class to the lower class. It can help people to find alternative way to secure their lives. So, some people can simply survive through corruption. It was three weeks ago that I asked my friends from Somalia whether he become corrupted if he takes position in the future or not, he honestly said “yes, without corruption, you wouldn’t survive”. So, we understand that corruption has advantages for some and poor people may get their share from the country revenue. I have seen solders and government employers who become rich through corruption and grossed large amount of money within a very short time. Obviously, solders and employers in check points and government administrations especially those that have relationship to the people’s daily live can easily get money with coordination to other officials who mostly back them in case they have been caught. So, straightforwardly corruption helps to be rich swiftly.

Nepotism is another aspect of corruption that can be seen in developing countries. Perhaps, when you have a cousin in one of the government administrations, this person may find place for most his/her family members and through them to others. So, it can help to drop unemployment rate in developing countries. On the other hand, corrupted person can promote their position by giving bribes and kickbacks. That happens especially during the elections in developing countries. The candidates will try to steal money from public and redistribute their wealth on their supporters and buy their votes. This illegal dealing has mutual benefits for both sides. To justify corruption, Andrese Rune argues that individuals are more likely to make their decisions to be corrupted if they sought the benefits will exceed the coasts (Rune, 2011, p.24). So, what he means is if the benefits larger than costs it would be okay to do so. In developing countries the organizational culture and government administrators don’t respect their client. They treat them in a very harsh and disrespectful way. Though, when you pay bribes or when you use connection, you will gain favorable treatment, cut bureaucratic corners or to bribe their way to contracts in order to enhance competitiveness and gain market shares or other business advantages.

Giving Bribes also work effectively in both private and public business. In developing countries the bureaucracy is so weak to fulfill the demands of people. Besides, there are large scales of routine and red traps, employers are not abiding by their duties and make things difficult to their clients. However, bribery and corruption will facilitate things. In the other word, you will get what you have paid for in a very short time and without any difficulties. In business perspective, corruption could motivate investment. According to the International Crises Groups, bribes were given to the insurgent groups in Kabul to guarantee security insurance for the development projects. So, here it can help business and continuing private and public activities. You pay an amount of money to terrorist or trouble makers group in regard to achieve security to maintain your project and apply your development programs. This is one way to run business appropriately.

In a nutshell, corruption is more dangerous than HIV, Malaria and terrorism. It causes many problems. The coasts of corruption are many but the major disadvantages are poverty, inequality, child mortality, budget shortage, destroying economic development and infrastructure, mistrust between government and people, discouraging business and investment, misusing natural resources, lockage of public service, deregulation, weak bureaucracy and weak rule of law. However, for some people it has benefits. Corruption can solve ethnic and religious conflicts and persuade conflict groups to get closer. Besides, it helps to redistribute wealth and equalize social class and reduce unemployment rates. In addition, people can be rich so fast without taking any hardness and efforts to do so. Due to the high routines and managerial problems in developing countries, people cannot do their works easily in government bureaucracy, but through bribes, kickbacks and other corruption means, they can get things done.

Nabaz Shwany, Bachelor in Politics and International Relations at the University of Kurdistan-Hewler. Currently, he is a Master student at the school of Government and International Studied, Public Management Department, University of Utara, Malaysia.  Nabaz Shwany is a regular contributing writer for, May 10, 2012.

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The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author


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