Jason Hickel
Jason Hickel

Flipping the corruption myth

Transparency International recently published their latest annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), laid out in an eye-catching map of the world with the least corrupt nations coded in happy yellow and the most corrupt nations smeared in stigmatising red. The CPI defines corruption as “the misuse of public power for private benefit,” and draws its data from 12 different institutions including the World Bank, Freedom House, and the World Economic Forum.

When I first saw this map I was struck by the fact that most of the yellow areas happen to be rich Western countries, including the US and the UK, whereas red covers almost the entirety of the global South, with countries like South Sudan, Afghanistan, and Somalia daubed especially dark.

cpi.transparency.org

cpi.transparency.org

This geographical division fits squarely with mainstream views, which see corruption as the scourge of the developing world (cue cliché images of dictators in Africa and bribery in India). But is this storyline accurate?

Many international development organisations hold that persistent poverty in the global South is caused largely by corruption among local public officials. In 2003 these concerns led to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which asserts that, while corruption exists in all countries, this “evil phenomenon” is “most destructive” in the global South, where it is a “key element in economic underperformance and a major obstacle to poverty alleviation and development”.

There’s only one problem with this theory: it’s just not true.

Corruption, superpower style

According to the World Bank, corruption in the form of bribery and theft by government officials, the main target of the UN Convention, costs developing countries between $20 billion and $40 billion each year. That’s a lot of money. But it’s an extremely small proportion — only about 3% — of the total illicit flows that leak out of public coffers. On the other hand, multinational companies steal more than $900 billion from developing countries each year through tax evasion and other illicit practices.

This enormous outflow of wealth is facilitated by a shadowy financial system that includes tax havens, paper companies, anonymous accounts, and fake foundations, with the City of London at the very heart of it. Over 30% of global foreign direct investment is booked through tax havens, which now collectively hide one sixth of the world’s total private wealth.

This is a massive — indeed, fundamental — cause of poverty in the developing world, yet it does not register in the mainstream definition of corruption, is absent from the UN Convention, and rarely if ever appears on the agenda of international development organisations.

With the City of London at the centre of the global tax haven web, how does the UK end up with a clean CPI?

The question is all the more baffling given that the City of London is immune from many of the nation’s democratic laws and free of all parliamentary oversight. As a result of this special status, the City has maintained a number of quaint plutocratic traditions. Take its electoral process, for instance: more than 70% of the votes cast during council elections are cast not by residents, but by corporations — mostly banks and financial firms. And the bigger the corporation, the more votes they get, with the largest firms getting 79 votes each. This takes US-style corporate personhood to another level.

To be fair, this kind of corruption is not entirely out of place in a country where a feudalistic royal family owns 120 000 hectares of the nation’s land and sucks up about £40 million of public funds each year. Then there’s the parliament, where the House of Lords is filled not by election but by appointment, with 92 seats inherited by aristocratic families, 26 set aside for the leaders of the country’s largest religious sect, and dozens of others divvied up for sale to multi-millionaires.

Corruption in the US is only slightly less blatant. Whereas Congressional seats are not yet available for outright purchase, the recent Citizens United vs FEC ruling allows corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns to ensure that their preferred candidates get elected, a practice justified under the Orwellian banner of “free speech”.

The poverty factor

The UN Convention is correct to say that poverty in developing countries is caused by corruption. But the corruption we ought to be most concerned about has its root in the countries that are coloured yellow on the CPI map, not red.

The tax haven system is not the only culprit. We know that the global financial crisis of 2008 was precipitated by systemic corruption among public officials in the US who were intimately tied to the interests of Wall Street firms. In addition to shifting trillions of dollars from public coffers into private pockets through bailouts, the crisis wiped out a huge chunk of the global economy and had a devastating effect on developing countries when demand for exports dried up, causing massive waves of unemployment.

A similar story can be told about the Libor scandal in the UK, when major London banks colluded to rig interest rates so as to suck about $100 billion of free money from people even well beyond Britain’s shores. How could either of these scandals be defined as anything but the misuse of public power for private benefit? The global reach of this kind of corruption makes petty bribery and theft in the developing world seem parochial by comparison.

But this is just the tip of the iceberg. If we really want to understand how corruption drives poverty in developing countries, we need to start by looking at the institutions that control the global economy, such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and the World Trade Organisation.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the policies that these institutions foisted on the global South, following the Washington Consensus, caused per capita income growth rates to collapse by almost 50%. Economist Robert Pollin has estimated that during this period developing countries lost about $480 billion a year in potential GDP. It would be difficult to overstate the human devastation that these numbers represent. Yet Western corporations have benefitted tremendously from this process, gaining access to new markets, cheaper labour and raw materials, and fresh avenues for capital flight.

These international institutions masquerade as mechanisms for public governance, but they are deeply anti-democratic; this is why they can get away with imposing policies that so directly violate public interest. Voting power in the IMF and World Bank is apportioned so that developing countries — the vast majority of the world’s population — together hold less than 50% of the vote, while the United States Treasury wields de facto veto power. The leaders of these institutions are not elected, but appointed by the US and Europe, with not a few military bosses and Wall Street executives among them.

Joseph Stiglitz, former chief economist of the World Bank, has publicly denounced these institutions as among the least transparent he has ever encountered. They also suffer from a shocking lack of accountability, as they enjoy special “sovereign immunity” status that protects them against public lawsuit when their policies fail, regardless of how much harm they cause.

Shifting the blame

If these patterns of governance were true of any given nation in the global South, the West would cry corruption. Yet such corruption is normalised in the command centres of the global economy, perpetuating poverty in the developing world while Transparency International directs our attention elsewhere.

Even if we do decide to focus on localised corruption in developing countries, we have to accept that it does not exist in a geopolitical vacuum. Many of history’s most famous dictators — like Augusto Pinochet, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Hosni Mubarak — were supported by a steady flow of Western aid. Today, not a few of the world’s most corrupt regimes have been installed or bolstered by the US, among them Afghanistan, South Sudan, and allegedly the warlords of Somalia — three of the darkest states on the CPI map.

This raises an interesting question: which is more corrupt, the petty dictatorship or the superpower that installs it? Unfortunately, the UN Convention conveniently ignores these dynamics, and the CPI map leads us to believe, incorrectly, that each country’s corruption is neatly bounded by national borders.

Corruption is a major driver of poverty, to be sure. But if we are to be serious about tackling this problem, the CPI map will not be much help. The biggest cause of poverty in developing countries is not localised bribery and theft, but the corruption that is endemic to the global governance system, the tax-haven network, and the banking sectors of New York and London. It’s time to flip the corruption myth on its head and start demanding transparency where it counts.

This article originally appeared in Al Jazeera.

Tags: ,

  • A ‘good story’ to tell – for some
  • How will our society be measured on corruption?
  • ‘There is something inhuman about stealing from the poor’
  • The convenient democrats
  • 50 Responses to “Flipping the corruption myth”

    1. Nduh Msibi #

      ..and so the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, all the while being told that each is responsible for the own success or plight

      February 3, 2014 at 4:16 pm
    2. Aida #

      Great article. Thanks!

      February 3, 2014 at 4:49 pm
    3. Yes, the gap widens, but not just globally. South Africa has been described as a First World country and a Third World country occupying the same space. Applied to this colour coding, the rich and powerful are surely more corrupt than the poor and the marginalized. Look at the president, and the personal benefits that accrue. In the language of new book The Fall of the ANC, triumphalists are now “vindictive triumphalists”. I quite agree, my personal experience bears this out. They are mean. They are cruel. They are calculating. They are trained. The go about it intentionally. They are Artful Dodgers. Colour them red… and colour the poor yellow. In one and the same country.

      February 3, 2014 at 6:19 pm
    4. Lucky #

      Eye opener. Thanks.

      February 3, 2014 at 10:48 pm
    5. Your articles are always solid. Please keep it up!

      February 3, 2014 at 11:34 pm
    6. Joseph Coates #

      South Africa no exception to the widening gap between rich and poor.
      Unfortubately, our present day government has made the gap wider by creating a very selective upper black society for a few of their comrades and have left the “have less majority in the cold.
      My dream is to see a middle class majority evolve in time after the next elections, so the scales of justice can be levelled out fairly. Then we will live in a true democratic society concentrating on all levels needing attention. Maybe corruption be a dirty word in that piont in time!!!!!!

      February 4, 2014 at 10:24 am
    7. Giovanni #

      Great summation of the Centre-periphery conundrum that continues to perpetuate poverty in the areas that have been synonymous with the term throughout the 20 and 21st century.

      February 4, 2014 at 10:27 am
    8. Great article. I always tell my moaning fellow Saffers: Compare our shit to the the shit of other countries, not to what they claim to do best on TV. I then recommend they watch ‘The Wire’ by way of illustration of what I’m saying.

      February 4, 2014 at 10:41 am
    9. Willem De Jager #

      Great, great article! A corruptible local government like the ANC just serves as an ultra convenient smoke screen for the new imperialists to plunder poorer nations. And our impressionable youth (black and white) keep running after the glaring lights of the Anglo American global oppressors! Indeed they have devised the most powerful form of oppression, one that the oppressed themselves uphold like sufferers of the Stockholm syndrome. It would be in the national interest if all the mines were nationalised… unless of course people felt that it would be better to keep local interests in international (white) hands.

      February 4, 2014 at 10:58 am
    10. Conrad Steenkamp
      Conrad Steenkamp #

      This is the old dependency debate in a new guise, unfortunately also obfuscating reality out there. The point at the end of the day is – what happens with the resources that do end up in the coffers of the state? Is it used properly or not? Corruption is no myth. It is measurable as is done with the index, and greedy elites have a very real impact on the ground. Makes no sense to ignore this just because one is unhappy about real and presumed structural factors.

      February 4, 2014 at 12:12 pm
    11. Freddy #

      Great article but are you not making the wrong point about the UK monarchy?

      If I’m not mistaken, the £40m is much less than the £200+ million that the state receives from income from the Crown Estate, which was surrendered in 1760 in return for Civil List payments.

      So the point is not that it’s uneconomical, but that it legitimises unelected power and hierarchies of race, gender, religion..

      But terrific article apart from that.

      February 4, 2014 at 12:22 pm
    12. Before you write articles like this, it would be useful to research the difference between “tax evasion” (which is illegal) and “tax avoidance” which is perfectly legal and practised by every single person and corporation that pays tax on the planet.

      For example, if you are allowed to deduct your contribution to a pension fund from your taxable income, and you actually do that, that is tax avoidance.

      Perhaps you can get SARS to explain these concepts to you.

      February 4, 2014 at 12:43 pm
    13. James #

      The inaccuracies in this article are astounding, bordering on the fictional. To address the major point of the article, tax avoidance is a form of corruption and is keeping the third world in poverty: Tax avoidance in this context is legal and applies to all companies trading anywhere, tax havens are available to all corporates. The recent blandishments of Google, Star Bucks etc by the UK parliament highlights that tax avoidance through havens impacts the western world as much as it does the third world. The issue has been highlighted as weak reciprocal tax laws in all countries which allow companies to legally report earnings and profits in low tax locations. The irrelevant point regarding the city of London fails to distinguish between London and the City of London, two entities. The City of London Corporation has no legislative or special powers and physically covers 1 square mile of almost entirely office blocks. The Lord Mayor of London (Fiona Wolf) is not the same person as the Mayor of London (Boris Johnson), who is democratically elected. Businesses in England are all subject to English law, there is no distinction for companies in the square mile.
      The royal family, do own certain properties in their own right, but the majority of land and assets are Crown Estate property, administered by the elected government, precisely to prevent royal privilege abuse. The only point on which I agree is corporates are the major instigators of corruption.

      February 4, 2014 at 2:08 pm
    14. G.A. MCLAREN. #

      The Briish Monarch is the head of state in a democracy under the rule of law.
      The monarchy has the support of the bulk of the British population and in no way can be described as feudal.
      The Crown Estates, i.e. the lands referred to in the article, has an income of +/- 285 million pounds p.a. of which the 85% goes to the British treasury and 15% goes to the Monarch for her upkeep and the maintenance of royal buildings which are open to the public.
      The monarchy makes a significant contribution to U.K. tourism and more than earns it’s keep.
      The article misrepresents the facts in this regard and therefore calls into question the validity of the entire article.

      February 4, 2014 at 3:15 pm
    15. Marie #

      Wipe out corruption and we wipe out poverty, right?

      February 4, 2014 at 3:45 pm
    16. Basil #

      Great article – sums up the situation pretty much.

      I am sure that
      Benjamin Disraeli had such insight when he stated: “The world is governed by very different personages from what is imagined by those who are not behind the scenes.”

      Without introducing shades of conspiracy theory, the facts you cite lead one to the unavoidable conclusion; Nations are being manipulated by those in command/power, to do their bidding in order to help them achieve/further their dark agendas – financial bondage.

      February 4, 2014 at 5:31 pm
    17. Skumbuzo #

      @Piet Opperman
      Whilst you make a reasonable point, the reality is one may be legal but that doesn’t make it moral or right. There are many things in this world that may be legal and wrong at the same time, and boy, do lawyers champ at the bit to confuse the two.

      February 4, 2014 at 5:32 pm
    18. Mannie #

      Tax is the ultimate form of corruption. Governments are addicted to tax, and tax havens exist to avoid government greed. Were tax rates not exorbitant, no need for any tax haven.

      February 4, 2014 at 6:42 pm
    19. Momma Cyndi #

      Why must we always use the lowest common denominator as our goal? South Africa is the greatest country in the world and we deserve BETTER than any other country.

      It is also a complete crock to say that the World Bank makes traffic cops take bribes at roadblocks or forces nurses to sell hospital sheets out of the back door of state hospitals. We have no control over what the rest of the world does but we do have control over being able to hold our elected leaders accountable. Other countries have politicians who step down or are pushed out at the first hint of a scandal. We have them moved to a different department or get fed a half baked, giggly excuse. THAT is where the problem is. It isn’t some huge political conspiracy, it is simple lack of accountability.

      February 4, 2014 at 6:49 pm
    20. Rory Short #

      I agree that the world’s powerful institutions, like the IMF, are corrupt at their non-democratic cores. However the reality is that if the governments in the South were less corrupt themselves then the opportunities for corrupt behaviour by institutions such as the IMF etc. would be far less and these governments would also be more likely to challenge the corrupt behaviour of the IMF etc.

      February 4, 2014 at 6:52 pm
    21. David #

      This silly opinion piece is basd on a totally false premise – that is that those who earn money should be forced to contribute an onerous amount of their hard-earned cash to government. The presumption is then that the government distribute this money amongst those that don’t/won’t work. What is lost in this premise, is the HUGE amount of tax-payer’s money that is wasted in the process. Since 1994, the number of government/minicipal employees in South Africa has increased by over 25%. These are non-productive jobs, mainly created for vote buying. Real jobs are created in the private sector, not by government. Private sector growth is the ONLY mechanism whereby jobs are created and “growth money” is pumped back into the economy. Today, most countries around the world have governments that are too large. In South Africa we have far too many ministers, MPs and governemnt employees – all of them on the non-productive gravy train. They have free housing, free travel, free food, free clothing allowances, free luxury cars and free medical – they also enjoy free travel, huge expense accounts and a multitude of other perks that tax-payers can only dream of. The only way to eradicate poverty is for the number of Minister and MPs to be reduced by at least one third. All gravy train perks should also be reduced by at least 50%. This huge saving should manifest itself in a reduction in tax for companies and private individuals. This will immediatley pump millios back into the REAL…

      February 4, 2014 at 7:11 pm
    22. michael #

      Marie, The author means wipe out the West and we wipe out poverty. So many contradictions and half truths.

      February 4, 2014 at 8:57 pm
    23. Gerhard #

      Apart from the factual inaccuracies mentioned above this is a dangerously misguided blog insofar as it seeks to minimise the insidious nature of corruption. It is blatantly obvious that corruption is a massive obstacle in the way of development in all countries ’stigmatised’ as highly corrupt on the map. It prevents those with means from investing in new job creating businesses and public projects that benefit everyone. It fosters nepotism, preventing the talented from rising to positions where their talents can be put to use for the benefit of society. It kills competition and the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels prosperity and uplifts the poor. If the author wished to draw attention to other issues such as tax evasion it would have been better if he had simply addressed those issues head on.

      February 4, 2014 at 9:07 pm
    24. Stonelli #

      Corruption costs the EU – ZAR 5’000’000’000 – per day!!!! Roughly the same amount as EU’s shared budget!!!!

      See the first corruption report of the EU commission, just published these days!!!
      http://www.dw.de/eu-finds-no-member-state-escapes-corruption/a-17406549

      February 4, 2014 at 10:00 pm
    25. Guy Thompson #

      Excellent piece.

      But I do want to throw in some deeper context, about the corruption of colonialism, including the settler regimes that were fostered by imperialism. What was apartheid, (including the discriminatory regimes that preceded its formal codification), or colonialism more broadly, but a form of institutionalized corruption built to benefit a particular segment of the population? While that group was overtly defined by race, rather than political connection, political allegiance certainly meant some people benefitted more.

      All perfectly legal – just like tax avoidance. Calling one form of manipulating state power, political connection, and control over finances and resources ‘corruption’ and the other ‘politics’ or “the natural order” obscures their similarities. And it avoids drawing attention to how colonialism fostered the development of financial mechanisms that made overt political domination obsolete.

      That context makes the current dismal state of the ANC easier to understand. It doesn’t mean that it is acceptable (and I don’t think Hickel in any was said corruption is). Moreover, it makes the behaviour of those who saw this before 1993 but disowned their politics once they came to power even less acceptable – above all, Zuma’s lapdog, Mac Maharaj.

      February 4, 2014 at 10:27 pm
    26. Aida #

      @GA Maclaren, there is no way you can tell that the majority of the british population support the royal family, since they dont get to vote on keeping them. I cant speak on behalf of british people, but i have seen various people pushing for a referendum on keeping the royal family. They havent succeeded yet: that democratic?

      February 4, 2014 at 11:28 pm
    27. Keith #

      Agree with some of the commentators. Although the angle the writer takes is interesting a lot of it has very little to do with corruption. A basic example…is it possible to bribe your way out of a traffic fine in the US/UK? Do you think Obama would spend the equivelant of R200 000 000 on security features at his private residence and if found out try and cover it up like the ANC led government?

      If we can we all try to avoid paying taxes. Giving up your hard earned cash as taxes is a whole nother issue.

      February 5, 2014 at 4:48 am
    28. Eva #

      Great article – definitely another platform for western countries to shift blame. Corruption is everywhere and often the source lies in the hands of rich western companies. The original sin is not necessarily in developing countries. The developing countries need to eradicate the recipients of such corruption that often robs the poorest in their lands of aid and resources. Poverty is far more complicated but corruption does play a role in impacting economic development.

      February 5, 2014 at 8:50 am
    29. Andrew #

      I have been studying and using the Transparency International surveys for many years now, and believe that they are well-researched by responsible people, using credible sources and surveys.

      It has become so fashionable to blame “the west” for all the ills of the World, including the corruption, poverty, wars and chaos found in poorly-governed countries.

      Nevertheless, “the west” consists almost entirely of responsible governments elected by millions of their citizens to govern wisely and well – and they donate billions of their citizens’ taxes to poor and corrupt countries. These millions of “western” democratic citizens are mostly relatively well-educated, well-meaning, charitable and hard-working – give them a break, won’t you?

      February 5, 2014 at 9:17 am
    30. Savage #

      Articles like this serve to entrench Africa’s victim mentality – they do more damage than good.

      Until there is ownership of the problems, Africa will always be poor, and the “widening gap” reflects that.

      February 5, 2014 at 10:34 am
    31. Salim #

      There are many arguments I share in this piece, but others seem much more problematic.
      First of all, indeed, the WB, IMF governance mechanisms seem unsuited to the democracy-democracy-accountability mantra. Second, yes, the Libor scandal illustrates how corruption is far from being a third world monopoly. Third, tax havens and tax avoidance are indeed plagues affecting developped and developping countries alike.

      However, writing that it is not local officials’ bribery in developping countries that causes poverty seems a bit excessive. While transfer pricing, dodgy concessions and the like do divert resources from the public sphere of developing countries, they differ significantly from the local bribes. Indeed, local officials’ corruption is an everyday thing, and those acts of corruption have a daily frequency, contrary to international massive FDI, infrastructure etc. deals. So, I think we should rather emphasize that both forms of corruption are as equally nocive. Local corruption translates into people not being able to enter the formal economy, thus depriving the state from taxable resources for example. It also leads to worse health status of the population (try to get treatment in a public hospital across North Africa…) and other calamities.

      in the end, such debates should emphasize that both forms are equally nocive, and that both international, national, and local authorities share the responsibilities.

      February 5, 2014 at 1:18 pm
    32. Jan Rabie #

      Your article is vague and also makes gross generalisations. You make the following statement: “Tax avoidance, on the other hand, accounts for more than $900 billion each year, money that multinational corporations steal from developing countries through practices such as trade mispricing.” In law there is a huge difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion. The first is legal the other is not. In CSARS v NWK Ltd [2011] 2 All SA 347 (SCA) Lewis JA held: “It is trite that a taxpayer may organise his financial affairs in such a way as to pay the least tax permissible. There is, in principle, nothing wrong with arrangements that are tax effective.” There is no obligation on any taxpayer to pay the maximum amount of tax. Secondly transfer pricing rules (in tax law) counter profit shifting by multinational enterprises and most jurisdictions have them today. I don’t know what you categorise under ‘trade mispricing’ but transfer pricing rules takes care of a lot of these problems. You also refer to “paper companies, anonymous accounts, and fake foundations”. Once again tax laws in most jurisdictions have anti-avoidance provisions and doctrines such as “substance over form” or “sham” or the controlled foreign company rules along with tax residence all ensure that every jurisdiction gets its fair share of tax. Inserting a mere conduit company won’t solve the problem. Add to that exchange controls and money laundering rules and you will see that it is not as easy as you think.

      February 5, 2014 at 3:34 pm
    33. Andre #

      The World bank and the. UN are all funded by the west. They will publish whatever they are told. The West entice corruption through their supposedly tax havens and fancy baking systems, which is nothing but a scam to enrich themselves. And willfully improvise others. Especially less developed nations.

      February 5, 2014 at 5:06 pm
    34. Yaj #

      Best article that i have ever read in a long time.Jason , you deserve a Nobel prize for this -shining the light on the real source and scourge of corruption in this world.
      The UN is just a puppet rubber-stamping organisation serving the interests of Western imperialist powers that are looting our people and countries -either through war, rigged trade deals, and the foisting of debt upon our nations through the corrupt practice of fractional reserve banking and compound interest.

      February 5, 2014 at 5:29 pm
    35. Salim #

      Came across this:

      http://www.courrierinternational.com/chronique/2014/01/30/poesie-et-philo-quand-les-debats-se-reglent-au-couteau

      Basically, Malawi officials have stolen millions… Tough to say in this case that developing countries are not the ones to blame first…

      February 5, 2014 at 5:30 pm
    36. Yaj #

      once again. Jason, a great article.

      This is the very reason why we need a public banking system OR 100% reserve banking or BOTH.

      And why we desperately need a levy on all financial transactions instead of income tax and VAT.

      February 5, 2014 at 5:34 pm
    37. Dan #

      Absolutely right that a number of developed countries are totally corrupt. They make third world kleptocrats look like poor amateurs.

      It is also true that developed countries have actively supported the corruption that exists in third world countries as a means to enrich themselves and further their global political agenda. In fact given their historical behaviour it would be no surprise if they were found to be actively encouraging the perception of corruption in third world countries to maintain the power imbalance.

      You don’t mention Public Action Committees in the US, funds that are meant to finance political campaigns, but which politicians have openly plundered for personal use for years. No surprise that little is done to curtail this blatant theft.

      February 5, 2014 at 6:43 pm
    38. Bernard #

      Another good old socialist /marxist article……..It´s always rich contries fault if there are poor people in the third world countries.

      February 5, 2014 at 6:54 pm
    39. Bernard #

      60 years ago, South Corea was as poor as as any african contry. Now South Corea is as rich as any western contry………How is that????? The answer is simple. They decide not to think like the author of this article.

      February 5, 2014 at 7:00 pm
    40. Bernard #

      South of Europe is far more corrupt than north of Europe……And of course north of Euoppe is richer than the south. This show that this article is just pure marxist propaganda.

      February 5, 2014 at 7:15 pm
    41. Littlebobpete #

      I have seen here so many people complain about Taxes. The issue remains, you have to be taxed, otherwise your country can’t build infrastructure. If everyone paid what was due, there would be less need to tax in differing ways.
      Before you start, I’m not denying that most Governments squander a pile of cash, both by being inept and corrupt, however, that’s where effective opposition and checks and balances should come into place.
      The super wealthy, via their access to tax havens and fancy mechanisms create the initial problem. They can afford the best lawyers who can drag cases on for years and drain “the rest” of the populations hard earned tax on irrelevant costs, simply with their greed…………..

      February 6, 2014 at 8:56 am
    42. Jamsie #

      The problem with all articles (or indeed academic treatises) that were written to make a point, is that they pick and chose what information to disclose. This is no exception.
      So, to follow the argument, the main culprit of global poverty is western governments. Such as the uk and us. However, the reasons for making this assertion, as quoted above, are primarily INWARD facing. Meaning, they would have the greatest effect on local people. Not those overseas. How the uk government receives taxes from uk corporations will not penalise someone living n Africa. It will, however, penalise someone living in the uk. Similarly any benefits received by the royal family.
      So, the conclusion one can draw, is that the people in the uk should be struck by poverty. NOT africa. Yet, this is not so. In fact the article blames the uk/us for poverty in the third world instead.
      This is illogical. You need to rethink your argument.

      February 6, 2014 at 9:44 am
    43. Maria #

      I take a very simplistic view of this. I live in South Africa and if it was not for the corruption, the open pillaging of public coffers by elected officials and their friends, family and individuals who have dirt on them, then South Africa may stand a chance of being quite a wealthy country. This country has unbelievable mineral resources and its not that the wealthy nations are “stealing” our heritage, it is that our government is willingly and greedily selling them off to the highest bidder and pocketing the money. We must all accept that SA could be great and could the most fantastic place to live were it not for the wholesale theft of our hard earned money and assets.

      February 6, 2014 at 10:31 am
    44. Lavrenti #

      Many valid points – and yes there is much exploitation by the West, the IMF and others. However the author, like most naive do-gooders, completely overlooks the most corrupt and rotten regime the world has ever known – the former USSR. Interesting how all the former USSR colonies in Africa – yes that rotten empire colonised and destroyed more states in Africa, Asia and South America than the horrible West ever did – are the most corrupt in the whole of Africa. Angola, Somalia, all those crumbling Marxist Utopias that are now run by criminal capitalists, gangsters and warlords. But socialists are the blindest of the blind – and have always turned their blind eyes to the greatest tyrannies the world has ever seen.

      February 6, 2014 at 6:23 pm
    45. mclaren #

      Aida, A small minority [18%] has been attempting for years to abolish the monarchy without success as the members of parliament, elected by the voters, will not support this.
      Surveys have shown +/- 85% support the institution and you need not look further than the crowds that turn out on a royal occasion.
      I quote an extract of a letter in the Guardian some time ago :-
      “British identity subsists in the countless bodies that are too old to be claimed as property by our political leaders: counties, army regiments, ancient universities, church wardens, jury trials. These institutions remind us that our government has been kept in check. A monarchy that we simultaneously chuckle at and respect underlines that the relationship”

      February 6, 2014 at 9:30 pm
    46. Conrad Steenkamp
      Conrad #

      After reading the comments that various people made, both positi9ve and negative, something else to add.

      The position taken in this opinion piece generates the same mind-numbing consequences as did the dependency school of thought. i.e. deflecting responsibility from local/national elites to those held responsible for international/macro-economic structural issues. At the end of the day, no matter what the structural limitations, the local elites still have room for manouevre, making the corruption index highly relevant.

      Arguing to the contrary, as the writer of this obfuscating piece of sophistry does, merely deflects responsibility from those who steal our money and deprive the poor of services. Great stuff for the kleptocrats, when with the help of opinion pieces like these, they can evade responsibility. But in this country, at least, the electorate can (still) hold them responsible for their actions.

      February 8, 2014 at 9:08 am
    47. L. Karcher #

      Great article surely, but then many of the comments are just as great and illuminating, for instance McClaren’s, Momma Cyndi, James, etc including the defenders of the British monarchy, which seems to me an an ancient and indispensable institution embodying the British nation. In Africa also, a sense of (non-discriminatory) nationhood is the first thing to build and preserve if our continent wants to have a chance to deal with local corruption and its international allies.

      February 8, 2014 at 9:46 pm
    48. Paul Roman #

      $30 trillion has amazed in offshore accounts. If ever there was a role for http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anonymous_(group)
      It would be to redistribute this stolen money to the people. This money is being used to collapse govt. worldwide and corrupt politician’s. Big business is using these accounts to defraud shareholders as well as taxpayers worldwide.
      Offshore banking is not protected by any world agency .
      Bribery to U.S. politicians is refined to a fine art and is coming to a country near you.
      Rupert Murdoch and his ilk are also buying media worldwide to convince the masses that greed is good.

      February 10, 2014 at 12:42 pm
    49. @Paul Roman:
      That money amassed there due to ineffective tax collection strategies. It wasn’t stolen from the people, it was just dodged taxation. You assume that once taxes get paid, they necessarily go towards the people. They do not – in fact, they very rarely do. There’s a wealth of literature on how taxation is not very effective as a means to redistribute wealth.

      Assuming of course you’re referring to trillions in bank accounts because your link only points to the undemocratic hacking group Anonymous.

      April 7, 2014 at 8:40 am

    Trackbacks/Pingbacks

    1. Pick of the day: Flipping the corruption myth « Places. - February 4, 2014

      […] read the whole story by Jason Hickel in the South African Main & Guardian Flipping the corruption myth | Thought Leader. […]

    Leave a Reply

     characters available