Measuring the immeasurable: Understanding corruption

By Shahira Emara & Maya Madkour

Corruption is wrong, dishonest and damaging. Causes,effects,and determinantsof corruption, methods of measuring its implications, and the means to understand and fight it, are increasingly becoming a priority on national and international agendas.

Paul Collier, Oxford University, argues that the absence of proper governance and democracy in the Middle East, among many other regions, provide fertile grounds to cultivate bad practices and processes that foster corruption. With the Arab Awakening, people all over the world are now more aware of the ever-growing cost of corruption and its astronomic ripple effect. Measuring the cost of corruption is a challenge because it is perceived in many different ways.

Corruption comes in many different colors, shapes and sizes; and being able to spot it in its different garbs is helpful. A causal, long-term relationship usually exists between corruption and social development goals, like tackling

infant mortality and illiteracy.Corporate bribery, political, and legal corruption often take place regardless of where the country sits on the development hierarchy. But the costs of corruption are relative to where different countries sit within this hierarchy.

SerdarSayan, from TOBB University of Economics and Technology and ERF,said what is not clear is whether economic growth comes before fighting corruption, or countries have to first fight corruption to bring about economic development.

Tackling corruption plays a massive role to play in transition countries, Daniel Kaufmann, from the Brookings Institution asks “What approaches should be used to fight corruption?.He makes clear that corruption should not be used to fight corruption. He also stresses the need to get out of this vicious cycle by establishing democracy, increasing accountability, and encouraging transparency.

As a phenomenon that touches upon all aspects of people’s lives, costs associated with corruption are much higher than commonly perceived. Social welfare, economic growth, inequality, wealth distribution, education, and the business environment are some of the sectors largely impaired by corruption; being it petty or grand.

Problems arise when governments no longer have monies to fight back. Or when people with integrity sit back and refuse to come forward to make sound governmental or authoritative political decisions.When corruption moves from the top levels to grassroots citizens throughout all classes and when ethical values hinder productivity, there is definitelyanurgent need to pause, and assess what can be done to bring about change.

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