Political corruption

According to Wikipedia:Political corruption is the use of powers by government officials for illegitimate private gain”. As is often the case, several things have cropped up of late that have triggered my thinking on these lines. I would like to think that most of the politicians I know, along with functionaries of the system they are supposed to oversee (and I know several), while having their faults and foibles, are NOT corrupt. But casting my eye wider afield, I more than suspect that is NOT the case in many countries in the world and there is enough in my own country recently coming to light to make me believe the UK is far from tackling the problem.

One trigger was the story that begins:David Cameron has been caught off-guard, seemingly calling Nigeria and Afghanistan “two of the most corrupt countries in the world” ahead of an anti-corruption summit in London on Thursday 12 May”. One of the responses was from the Nigerian President:  “I am not demanding an apology from anybody, I am demanding a return of assets” referring to the ill gotten gains siphoned off by corrupt politicians that the UK government could help to recover. The problem is world wide. In my days as a computer professional it was generally accepted to do business with many Middle East countries that it could only be achieved by bribing those in official positions. In my second home, India, it seems generally accepted that in order to get many things done officials need paying off first. The bottom line is that the people who invariably suffer most are the poor, who more often than not cannot afford the resultant inflated prices.

I was earlier taken to task by someone close to me as to why I did not consider corruption in my own back yard. In one sense I did recently when reflecting on the ridiculous no confidence vote moved by Tory councilors where more than one speaker at least insulated that the (opposition) Leader of the Council had acted corruptly. I already alluded to the “mote and beam” narrative and that probably a lot worse has gone on in recent times by Conservative politicians (e.g. reference expense fraud or at least even if no law was broken these people had gone against the spirit of the law by claiming more than is morally acceptable, although I suspect similar claims can be laid against members of other parties also). As for the story my friend was alluding to, it begins: “The Electoral Commission is taking the Conservative Party to the High Court in an effort to force it to disclose information related to claims it has breached election spending rules”. The jury is often out as to the extent British politicians in the past had acted corruptly, and sadly a cloud often hovers over them, but there is enough that has been reported or spoken about to raise concerns when I hear claims like certain politicians are in the pockets of special interest groups or the likes of dodgy landlords or big business. And while it is never my intention to cast dispersions on individuals without evidence, I do serve notice that I am watching and I do have spies who report back. I also like to believe, the term “honest politician” is usually NOT an oxymoron.

This brings me on to a story that has recently hit the headlines, although given the scant coverage in the British media one would hardly know it. It is to do with the standing down of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff under pressure because of accusations of corruption and the elevation of Vice President Michel Temer, to replace her. Also I refer to an article titled “Brazil’s Democracy to Suffer Grievous Blow as Unelectable, Corrupt Neoliberal is Installed”. In it the author argues that by doing away with one corruption, and one that stood more for the poor, it has laid the way open for another, even worse, and one that stands against the poor and linked to all sorts of vested interests that look to gain from what has happened. I have to confess, in my blogging to date, I have not referred all that much to countries in South America, such as Brazil, and that is partly because my interest lies elsewhere and my knowledge of what goes on is limited. However, given the significance of the story, despite South American countries often being linked to corrupt politicians of the left and right, and sudden coups and regime changes, I felt I needed at least to raise the matter.

While, as with anything that comes my way, I need to check out the facts etc., these comments by a friend “in the know” are relevant: “We agree that although she is at fault for a lot of the problems that are occurring right now, it seems that the right wing, who couldn’t get rid of her through elections have now resorted to this. The man who is now President is totally corrupt, has put in power a rightist government that will probably roll back a lot of the reforms which will hit the poorest. The media is all owned by a few rich families and they have been stoking the fires of discontent. There are corruption cases against many of the right, which will probably now be quietly dropped and the masses placated with carnival and football. There is corruption on the left too, no doubt about it, but it’s a coup d’etat, of that I’m sure.” Putting aside feelings of powerlessness, it also increases my resolve to see justice prevail. On a practical matter, with the eyes of the world on Brazil for the forthcoming Olympic Games, I wonder what reactions, in Brazil’s 200 million population, there will be to what appears to be a grave injustice. Will it be apathy, rebellion or clamp down?

Putting aside my religious opinions, which will put me firmly on the side of those who adopt principles of impeccable integrity, who oppose and fight against corruption in any form, there are good reasons for stamping out corruption, not least given that this is the main way in which we can help the poor and disadvantaged. I wish those living in countries where there is a corruption issue, who adopt this position, well, knowing all too often people like these often end up paying the ultimate price when they do so, for this is the world in which we live and the world which we want to change.

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