The human cost

May 22,2016

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Here’s a story from Transparency International (TI), the ‘global coalition against corruption’, “This nine-year-old girl is one of them. She lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh-one of 114 countries that scores below 50 out of 100 in our 2015 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), indicating serious levels of public sector corruption.

“Instead of going to school, she spends her days sorting bottles at a recycling factory. Officially child labor is illegal in Bangladesh. Unofficially a bribe paid to the right official can mean exceptions are made. Like all exploitation, child labor remains a sad reality in environments where citizens are trapped in poverty and corrupt officials can be paid off.

“It’s just one example of the devastation fuelled by corruption. Others include human trafficking, child mortality, poor education standards, environmental destruction and terrorism. Put simply-public sector corruption is about so much more than missing money. It’s about people’s lives.”

Bangladesh scores 25 out of 100 and Pakistan scores 30 out of 100 – both scores indicating ‘serious levels of public sector corruption’. Poor countries “lose $1 trillion a year to corruption.”Pakistan loses an estimated $8 billion a year to corrupt practices in our public sector (a figure roughly equal to this year’s proposed defence budget).

Angola, South Sudan, Sudan, Afghanistan, North Korea and Somalia are among the most corrupt. They are also among the ‘least peaceful places in the world’.

According to TI, “In Afghanistan, millions of dollars that should have gone on reconstruction have been reportedly wasted or stolen, seriously undermining efforts to sustain peace. In Angola, 70 percent of the population lives on $2 a day or less. One in six children dies before the age of five – making it the deadliest place in the world to be a child.

“Dubbed Africa’s youngest billionaire, Isabel dos Santos made her $3.4 billion fortune from the national diamond and telecommunications business. She’s also the president’s daughter.”

The ‘human cost of corruption is huge’. Six out of ten Pakistanis live at or below $2 a day. According to Save the Children, Pakistan has the highest rate of first day deaths and stillbirths, 40.7 per 1,000 births. Pakistan is followed by Nigeria (32.7), Sierra Leone (30.8), Somalia (29.7) and Afghanistan (29). Imagine; Afghanistan is far ahead of Pakistan on this count.

There is a “strong correlation between corruption, poverty and inequality”. Corruption is a “major stumbling block for achieving sustainable development.” Corruption “negatively affects productivity and investment, and thus impedes economic growth.” Corruption has a “negative effect on education outcomes: it reduces test scores, lowers national ranking of schools and reduces satisfaction ratings.” Corruption and “bribery can have a negative effect on foreign investment.” Corruption is a “major obstacle in poverty reduction.”

According to the World Bank, “each year $20 billion to $40 billion…are stolen through high-level corruption from public budgets in developing countries and hidden overseas.” To be certain, public-sector corruption in developing countries has kept them from reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

To be sure, “corruption is robbing billions of people [around the world] of a brighter future”. According to Alif Ailaan’s ‘25 Million Broken Promises’, there are 25 million Pakistani boys and girls who are not in school. A couple of billion dollars can educate them all. An additional billion can cut down the rate of first day deaths and stillbirths.

PS: On Thursday, our parliamentarians jacked up their salaries and perks from Rs80,000 a month to a minimum of Rs470,000 a month; a jump of nearly 500 percent.

The writer is a columnist based in Islamabad. Email: Twitter: saleemfarrukh


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