Dhaka Courier

Corruption has no stigma so the PM’s call...


Jubo League is being reorganized by the mother party Awami league and some of the older leaders have been dropped. New leadership has come in at the top. At the recently held national meeting, which has been billed as a congress of “image building”, various leaders have said that they will strive to uphold the clean image of the party. They have lamented that a few corrupt people have tarnished the image of JL and they are now being thrown out.

Corruption, honor and wealth

The PM addressed the rally and said that corruption can bring wealth but not honour. She asked everyone to work for the people and sacrifice in the best interest of the country. Every member of JL are hoping that this wing of the party will once again become known positively.

But what strikes most is the hope expressed by the PM about honesty triumphing over corruption. She has said what conventional wisdom says and she believes. That the corrupt rich is not respected but then does conventional wisdom apply in today’s Bangladesh?

Conventional fact is therefore a better guide. A study carried out by the Centre for Governance, Diversity and Communication Studies says that 89% of the people experience one form of corruption or other in their socio-economic transactions in Bangladesh. The findings are close to what the TIB has also found. The number is so overwhelming that it means almost no one can be free from corruption while going about their business in life. This applies to both the public and the private sector.

Corruption: Current and future scenario

Survey summary findings were as follows:

1. How many experienced corruption in public life

• 89 % - Yes

2. How many experienced major corruption that affected social/economic well being

• 67%

3. In which sectors

• Official sectors 85% 

• Private sector 15%

4. Did you seek redress?

Yes- 25% No. 75%

5. (25%) What was the result ?

Negative (90%)

6. (75%) Why didn’t you complain?

“It’s part of life”

7. Was corruption open or private?

• Open- 50%

• Partly open- 40%

Privately done – 10%

8. Do people think that corruption can decline through punishment?

• Too big to be controlled/Systemic 60%.

• Punishers are also corrupt. 20%

• Nobody is interested unless own interest is affected. 15%

• Who will take the risk? 5%

9. Is there corruption in the private sector /NGOs

• Yes 85%

• No 15%

10. Biggest private sector corruption

90% - Markets, vendors, shopkeepers etc.

Summary of conclusions

What came across from the survey responses was the acceptance of corruption as “part of life.”  In fact many didn’t even think that paying money to getting anything done was corruption. They thought payment for services was a natural practice. Everyday retail level corruption is routine.  In fact, field researchers have said that the 11% of the people who said they hadn’t experienced corruption could actually be thinking that what affects their “well being” as corruption and not what they pay regularly whenever any service is to be had. Or even goods bought from the market.

The JL members who were caught in the “casino net’ had been doing business for years and there had been a few media reports on it also but not many. When asked why media neglected to report them, media members  said that these casinos had been going on as gambling dens for so many years that all thought they were normal business. And they were all owned by the powerful people so why should media report when it’s so common. It was not seen as crime by most people including media.

The yaba model is all pervasive

The same scenario applies to the yaba drug trading as well. Yaba trading has many layers and those caught in anti-drug campaigns are largely from the bottom layer. The top ones are not touched and even most bottom ones are left alone. It’s such a big businesses that many fear that if yaba trade collapses, the national economy may face a mini crisis.

The anti-yaba drive is almost a year old but the supply has not declined much. People point to the massive demand which is so big that law and order including extra-judicial killing has not dented the sector.

It’s possible for the drug mafia to go on because many people who are supposed to control the trade are corrupt. The dealers care about profit not life and death. Suppliers have no concern except profit and the state structure is protected by a section of the powerful.

The PM means well and has said so but she is probably out of touch with contemporary ideas about wealth, corruption and honor amongst the casino crowd. In Bangladesh honor doesn’t matter much. Wealth matters.

Jubo League will no doubt become strong but whether the corrupt will listen to the PM and mend their ways is another matter.

  • Corruption has no stigma so the PM’s call...
  • Vol 36
  • Issue 21
  • Afsan Chowdhury
  • DhakaCourier

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