With corruption and specially political corruption continuing to spread like a cancer in Sri Lanka, tomorrow’s International Anti-Corruption Day needs to give important lessons to our politicians at all levels and from all parties.
According to the United Nations, every year US$ one trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.
The UNDP says corruption is a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune. This year the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crimes (UNODC) and the UNDP have developed a joint global campaign, focusing on how corruption affects education, health, justice, democracy, prosperity and development. Corruption is a complex social, political and economic phenomenon that affects all countries. Corruption undermines democratic institutions, slows economic development and contributes to governmental instability.
Corruption attacks the foundation of democratic institutions by distorting electoral processes, perverting the rule of law and creating bureaucratic quagmires. Economic development is stunted because foreign direct investment is discouraged and small businesses within the country often find it impossible to overcome the “start-up costs” required because of corruption, the UNDP adds. UNODC Executive Director, Yury Fedotov in a message to mark the event, says young people denied all-empowering education, women excluded from life-saving surgery and workers prevented from working, are just some of corruption’s unwitting victims.
Corruption has a catastrophic impact on societies; it stifles opportunities, denying vulnerable people access to infrastructure, and condemns them to lives of inequality and inequity. The victims of corruption are not from a single generation. This crime haunts successive generations impacting on countless numbers of people. If people are to be removed from poverty and economic growth promoted, the world must stand united against corruption. This means rejecting corruption and embracing accountability, transparency and good governance, the UNODC Executive Director says. In Sri Lanka, politicians who read about these catastrophic effects of corruption need to examine their conscience and come to an awareness how their tendency to accept commissions and kickbacks affects the whole economy and worst still, millions of impoverished people. During the past ten years specially, corruption among politicians, top officials, their lackeys, business leaders and others has reached devastating proportions largely because of the breakdown of the rule of law, lack of accountability and transparency and the dictatorial regime that prevailed after the 18th Amendment was approved.
On January 8, 2015 President Maithripala Sirisena—backed by a rainbow coalition including most of the political parties and civic action groups—was elected to office with the crackdown on corruption being high on the agenda of the manifesto. But exactly 35 months later where do we stand on the corruption scoreboard. Significantly a report was scheduled to be issued today by the Presidential Commission of Inquiry which probed the alleged treasury bond scams in the Central Bank. But the President yesterday gave the commission time till December 31 to issue the report.
While the people await the report to find out as to who did what and how much was plundered, progress is still slow in prosecuting VIPs who allegedly plundered billions in public funds during the former regime. Last year Sri Lanka was ranked 95th among 175 countries probed in the Corruption Perceptions Index compiled by Transparency International. In 2009 Sri Lanka ranked 97. Whatever the rank we hope the recent law to appoint special High Courts to probe corruption cases will be implemented fast, while tough action is taken against those found guilty in the alleged Treasury Bond scam.
As President Sirisena has said, people who want to do business by fair means or foul would be well advised to keep out of politics where the priority is to serve and sacrifice for the people. Politicians need to ask what they could give to the country instead of finding ways of grabbing from the country.