Corruption is one of the biggest problems faced by many countries today. Both developing and developed countries are concerned with the issue of corruption (Ogus, 2004). This concern, which can be traced in several disciplines, may be attributed to the fact that corruption can lead to detrimental effects on a country’s economy and bureaucracy (De Asis, 2000). Indeed, international organizations like the World Bank have focused on the eradication of corruption in developing countries because it is one of the major reasons for the lack of economic growth in such countries (Ogus, 2004).
More particularly, corruption takes center stage in the study of the law, law enforcement, public administration and politics.
This paper is a comparative analysis of several countries based on their performance in the fight against corruption. It shall analyze the performance of four countries, where two are considered some of the least corrupt and the other two are considered some of the most corrupt countries in the world. It also aims to determine possible areas of law and governance reform that could help eradicate corruption as a social cancer.
Every year, Transparency International publishes a Corruption Perception Index, where all countries are ranked based on people’s perception on their susceptibility for corruption. This paper discusses the performances of four countries, namely, Finland, Japan, the Philippines, and India, on the eradication of corruption in their respective jurisdictions.
Nature of Corruption.
There are at least three key concepts that play a major role in any study of the problem of corruption.
These concepts are necessary in order to place the problem in the proper context or perspective. These three concepts are public corruption, public ethics, and public integrity (Fijnaut & Huberts, 2001).
Defined briefly, public corruption refers to “the abuse of public office for private gain.” In a broader light, public corruption refers to acts “involving behaviour on the part of officials in the public sector, whether politicians or public servants, in which they improperly and unlawfully enrich themselves, or those associated with them, by the misuse of the public power entrusted to them.” Thus, the concept lies on the assumption that a person who occupies a public office commits acts that are characterized by abuses of such office, for the purpose of enriching himself (Fijnaut & Huberts, 2001).
The second concept, public ethics, is defined as “the collection of values and norms in the public sector, functioning as standards or yardsticks for assessing the integrity of one’s conduct.” A country naturally has an established set of rules, values, and standards that shall serve as guidelines for the proper performance of duties by public officials (Fijnaut & Huberts, 2001).
Finally, the last important concept in the study of corruption is public integrity, which is intimately related to the notion of established moral values, norms and rules. Public integrity ensures that the conduct of a public officer is in accordance with the values, norms and rules that have been accepted by the body politic and the public. Thus, deviance from these established norms may be interpreted as public misconduct.
All these concepts are closely intertwined with the concept of public officers. Public officers are the ones in positions that are susceptible to corruption. Indeed, the occupation by an individual of a public office is the operative fact that puts him in a position of power, which, in turn, gives rise to opportunities for corruption (Fijnaut & Huberts, 2001).
Discussion of Least Corrupt Countries.
Among the countries in the world, Finland is one of those that could serve as a good subject of a study for corruption because it has consistently proven itself as one of the few countries that are least corrupt. Indeed, it is one thing to achieve the highest scores in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index; but it is another matter altogether to remain on top. Finland manages to do both feats easily. Finland has impressively ranked first in four of the annual CPIs released by Transparency International: specifically in 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2006. It is notable that this commendable trend of having very low perceptions of corruption runs through several of other Nordic countries, namely, Denmark, New Zealand, Iceland, Sweden and Norway.
Finland’s success may be found in a sound government that is equipped with adequate institutions and rules on graft and corruption. It has a special court that deals exclusively with cases on graft and corruption. Finland also has a parliamentary Ombudsman that encourages citizen participation in the fight against corruption (Brady, 2002).
Another country that is making waves in the anti-corruption field is Japan. In the Regional Highlights of the Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International for 2007, Japan ranked 5th place for the Asia Pacific Region. This means that Japan is considered as among the least corrupt nations in the Asia Pacific Region (Transparency International, 2007).
Despite this rather laudable accomplishment, it cannot be denied that Japan had not been spared of the social cancer of corruption. Indeed, corruption in Japan is described as unique in two respects. First, the Japanese bureaucracy is reputed to be a stable and effective governing body. The Japanese bureaucracy is believed to be at the forefront of Japan’s continuous economic growth. However, Japan is also considered to be having a “third-rate politics,” which implies that its administration is known for its inefficiency and political clientelism (Choi, 2007).
Moreover, the fact that Japan achieved rather good marks in the Transparency International Corruption Perception Index, which means that there is a general perception that Japan is not corrupt, it is reported that there is systematic corruption in the country, particularly in the higher levels of administration (Choi, 2007).
The unique feature of the embedded culture of corruption in Japan is traced to the longtime practice in the country of network building. The political system of Japan is characterized by structural mechanisms such as amakudari and zoku, which foster network building. Thus, efforts at anti-corruption must necessarily include attempts at disentangling rigid networks in order to ensure success (Choi, 2007).
Discussion of Least Corrupt Countries.
The Philippines is among those getting the lowest in rank in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception index. In 2007, the country only ranked 22nd in the Asia-Pacific Region, and 131st in the whole world (Transparency international, 2006). It is interesting to note that the Philippines has a host of laws dealing with corruption.
Most of these laws penalize criminal acts constituting the offense of corruption, while a great many also creates bodies tasked with the duty of reducing corruption. Thus, in the said country, there are several bodies such as the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, which both aim to help the fight against corruption (Bernas, 1996). Both organizations are yet to prove their worth in the country’s anti-corruption campaign.
On the other hand, Indonesia only ranked 24th in the same regional survey, and 131st worldwide (Transparency international, 2007). Corruption in India is not being denied; rather it is almost a foregone conclusion. Indeed, there are now studies that are of the position that India appears to be surviving fiscally despite its high incidence of corruption. Corruption in India exists, both in the low and high levels of the bureaucracy. Thus, there is corruption at the level of regulatory agencies, in the procurement of goods, and through kickbacks (Jenkins, 2006).
Similar to that of the Philippines, India suffers from the so-called “patronage democracy.” This is also called “clientelist politics.” Thus, India’s democracy suffers because the actions of people are based on the rewards that are promised to them and not on the real merit of the action (Jenkins, 2006).
The countries with high incidences and perception of corruption, based on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, have common threads. They have embedded corruption within their systems. Thus, India and the Philippines already have systematized corruption in their bureaucracy. This type of corruption is difficult to eradicate, despite the placement of numerous laws designed to address the problem.
On the other hand, Finland and Japan succeed in their respective battles against corruption because they both have sound governments that are serious in battling corruption. It is worth noting, however, that corruption is so pervasive in society that even those countries that have substantially defeated it still cannot completely avoid it. Thus, there is a need for continuous vigilance and reform to ensure that corruption is indeed completely eradicated.
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