Corruption is defined by some as the abuse of public power for private use. Another school of thought refers to corruption as a violation of the formal rules. Defining corruption as a violation of the rules is appropriate only if one is referring to an otherwise ideal and law-abiding society. Although it is difficult to come up with a universally acceptable definition of corruption, it is not difficult to recognize corruption or corrupt activities.
Corruption can take many forms such as bribes, preferential treatment to friends and/or relatives, nepotism and underperformance. Corruption can also be divided into categories such as economic and political. Political corruption refers to gains that are mainly in terms of political power. Corruption can involve both the private and public sectors where the former plays the role of bribers and the latter as a recipient of the bribes.
Even within private corporations, someone can abuse his/her position for private benefit. Corruption exists, for example, in procurement and hiring. Several causes of corruption have been noted in the literature. Low salary received by public sector officials is one of the main causes of corruption. Corruption is likely to be more severe if the probability of catching the offenders is low and the punishment imposed on offenders is not significantly high.
How Corruption Affects National Interests
Corruption discourages foreign investment. It is well known that corruption results in a suboptimal level of public investment, which can be detrimental to the economy in the long-term. Corruption leads to the inefficient allocation of resources and discourages foreign investment. Endemic corruption highlights the underlying problem of governance, which is associated with the problem of weak or dysfunctional institutions.
There is no doubt that corruption is a major problem in Pakistan. It is well recognized by an ordinary citizen, as well as, international agencies such as Transparency International, which has consistently ranked Pakistan among the countries where corruption is a very serious problem. From an economic theory point of view, the optimal level of corruption just like the optimal level of pollution would not necessarily be zero.
Good Corruption, Bad Corruption?CORRUPTION IN NAYA PAKISTAN
Some level of corruption where those, who are disadvantaged are, compensated by those who gain from it, can be tolerated in a market economy. From a national point of view, there may be a temptation not to describe certain activities as bad or undesirable especially if such activities appear to foster national interest. For example, Dr. Abdul Qadir Khan’s act of unauthorized copying of confidential documents and handing them over to Pakistan’s nuclear scientist is a clear abuse of power, which can be categorized as a corrupt activity.
However, this corrupt activity appears to have earned him, the accolades of a large majority of the population. As indicated earlier, it is difficult to provide a general definition of corruption. What is perceived to be a corrupt activity is based on a society’s acceptance and level of tolerance. In developing countries such as Pakistan, corruption is like a virus that has infected almost every social and economic activity.
The Paradox of Naya Pakistan
Corruption has spread to an extent where some of these activities are not even considered as corrupt practices. For example, in a developed country, paying money to receive some benefits or privileges that one may not be entitled to, is considered a corrupt activity. On the contrary, in a developing country like Pakistan, one may need to bribe the concerned officer to do the very job, he is being paid for, by the government.
For instance, one needs to pay to a tax collector or custom officer in Pakistan to submit his/her tax returns or pay custom duty. In such cases, people prefer to evade taxes and just pay token money to the tax collector. Similarly, in a purely agriculture based country; poor farmers are refused to have access to agriculture loans (to buy seeds and fertilizer) unless they pay a share of the loan money to the bank officer.
I feel that this is the worst kind of corruption where common people are the main victims of corrupt practices. In Pakistan, for example, everyone from a traffic policeman to high official has been accused of corruption. However, in general, law enforcement agencies and the bureaucracy are considered to be the most corrupt element of society. The recent incident of an SHO unabashedly demanding sexual favours and money from the victim’s family is a case in point.
Sare-Aam is a Pakistani television show, aired on ARY News and hosted by Iqrar ul Hassan. The show strives to expose corruption and anarchy. When hapless mother approached Sare-Aam team, Iqrar could no more hold himself and decided to act. A sting operation was conducted by Team Sar-e-Aam to vindicate the poor elderly woman whose 12-year-old daughter was missing and police was demanding a bribe to even start investigations.