Changing Corrupt Societies

It is self-evident that corruption does not benefit society as a whole. Take a look at this picture and see how poorer and less livable places on this globe go hand in hand with levels of corruption.

For more insight into how exactly corruption hurts the development of countries, see here. You will come away with a nifty little equation that captures most of what you need to know about this phenomenon:

C = (M + D – A)/E …or in other words…

Corruption = (Monopoly + Discretion – Accountability) /Ethical Ambience.

So to reduce corruption then, we need to sincerely take the following steps:

1. As much as possible shine the light of competition into the hallways of government. Why can’t we have two separate tax bodies responsible for collecting taxes at each of the two harbours in Ghana? We then align compensation at each agency with how well they do in terms of revenue collection as well as customer satisfaction. Finally, enact a rule that if a particular agency comes second consistently, management will be fired and a new crew brought in. You will see the demand for bribes go down as they competing hard to attract business.

2. Reduce the power of government to say no. We have way too many decision makers and invariably you need to make each and everyone of them happy or get stuck. As much as possible, we should reduce the rules and regulations being spewed out by officialdom. The burden should be on government to justify any regulation. Seriously, look at the track record of these officials in Africa; can you tell me with a straight face that life is better for most people because of their existence of such rules. What makes it worse is the widespread knowledge that breaking the rules is irrelevant if you have enough money. Well, those rules can’t really be that important! So, lets do away with them and see how we do.

3. Increase accountability by ensuring a free press, better run institutions as well as transparency in government decision-making. Why can’t we put the details of every government purchase and sale above a certain amount online where it will be readily accessible? We already have the records for such purchase orders so all we have to do is scan/type them into a database behind some webserver. I am sure we can get volunteers to fix any “technical issues” we may run into. Once we begin to see the companies and individuals receiving contracts, we can begin to connect the dots and it is that element of transparency that will make it more difficult to carry out the kind of private profit maximization out of public assets we so often see in Africa.

4. Finally, increase the ethical ambience so that there is more involvement by citizens in the political process, there is more of a sense of national pride by our leaders and generally speaking, individuals at all levels have more of an affinity for their fellow citizens. The role of media as well as our educational establishment is important here. Both children and adults need to be re-educated if necessary to understand how individual actions can harm the nation.

Debates about corruption tend to fixate on individuals. He is so corrupt! Or, he is so clean that he will be our saviour! Relying on a Messiah to save us is like relying on the weather to provide power. It will at some point fail you. Relying on a systematic approach that addresses each of the facets of corruption will guarantee enduring success irrespective of who may be in power.

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