Cause and Effect of Corruption

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There is a growing worldwide concern over corruption at the present time. Several factors are responsible for this. A consensus has now been reached that corruption is universal. It exists in all countries, both developed and developing, in the public and private sectors, as well as in non-profit and charitable organizations. Allegations and charges of corruption now play a more central role in politics than at any other time. Governments have fallen, careers of world renowned public figures ruined, and reputations of well-respected organizations and business firms badly tarnished on account of it. The international mass media feeds on it and scandals and improper conduct, especially of those in high places. The rising trend in the use of corruption as a tool to discredit political opponents has brought scandalous and corrupt behavior to international attention. Corruption can be a major obstacle in the process of economic development and in modernizing a country. Many now feel that it should receive priority attention in a country’s development agenda. This greater recognition that corruption can have a serious adverse impact on development has been a cause for concern among developing countries. In a recent survey of 150 high level officials from 60 third world countries, the respondents ranked public sector corruption as the most severe obstacle confronting their development process. Countries in the Asia and Pacific region are also very worried about this problem and they are in substantial agreement that corruption is a major problem that is hindering their economic, political and social development, and hence view it as a problem requiring urgent attention at the highest level.

Increasing public interest and concern over corruption have resulted in a large amount of scholarly research on the subject. Admittedly, there are still wide gaps in the current state of information and knowledge on the matter and much more remains to be done. Nevertheless, theoretical and empirical research that has been conducted thus far has yielded fresh insights into the problem. We now have a clearer understanding of the underlying causes of corruption, its consequences, and ideas and approaches on possible measures to combat it. At the same time, a better perspective has been obtained on the reasons why corruption persists in so many countries, and why it is difficult to deal with, although people throughout the world view it with disfavor.

It is a common practice in many developing countries to institute price controls and to provide essential goods and services at subsidized prices to consumers. The official price for a key food item, such as rice, is fixed by paying a low administratively set price to farmers, while gasoline, electricity and charges for public transport and other essential items are provided at low subsidized prices. These mostly benefit city dwellers as they are the main consumers of these subsidized goods and services. The urban bias in the provision of subsidized food and other necessities stems from the political reality that city dwellers, especially the large masses at the lower end of the income scale, are more politically conscious, better organized and are easier to be instigated into civil unrest than the rural poor. It is usually discontent in the cities that ignites social and political upheavals in a country. Fixing prices at artificially low levels lead to demand exceeding supply for the subsidized goods so that the all too familiar shortages, rationing, corruption and black markets result. Several undesirable consequences follow. There is a loss of potential government revenue. For example, when those that have access to subsidized gasoline, such as government officials and car owners, sell it on the black market at several times the official price, they make large profits. These profits could be taken as revenue by the government, if there is no subsidy, no price distortion, and gasoline is...
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