What Causes Corruption? Blog Home / Blog / What Causes Corruption?
02
Dec
2015 02:48
It may be argued that the foundations underpinning the mechanisms of Nepalese society are intrinsically based on corrupt principles. The 'caste system', although officially abolished by the Nepalese law, is still a prominent feature of the Nepalese society today. The operating of the 'cast system' in Nepal implies that a person born into a 'higher' caste will automatically have superior chances of obtaining a relatively high-wage job (following in the footsteps of their forefathers). On the other hand, a person who is born into a 'lower caste' will be expected to follow in their caste heritage and engage in menial/manual work for a lower wage. Such people's chances of achieving a top-level career are minimal. The radical inequality of opportunity that reigns in Nepal can be seen as the corrupt grounds on which Nepalese society rests. Accession to a relatively prestigious career through family heritage (ethnic grouping) is directly assimilable to nepotist practices. Since the phenomenon is so widespread, we can say that corruption is extremely deep-rooted in our society's foundations, therefore it will be no small task to induce even a small reduction in its occurrence. Drastic societal action needs to be taken if a difference is to be made.

 Anticorruption Movement Nepal believes that there are six predominant causes and sustaining factors of corruption. First, the general level of poverty and low wages experienced by the vast majority of the Nepalese society (including all levels of public officials), which provides a need and a catalyst for dishonest money acquisition practices. Second, the lack of transparency and accountability of both state and private organizations : individuals and groups can deceitfully obtain money by abusing their position of authority without fear of reprimand or punishment. Mauro of World Bank also believes that "Low wages in the civil service relative to wages in the private sector are a source of low-level corruption. When civil service pay is too low, civil servants may be obliged to use their positions to collect bribes as away of making ends meet, particularly when the expected cost of being caught is low."

 Opportunities for corrupt behavior are amplified by the ineffective and non-implemented legislation, which, it appears, was only put in place by the government to create the illusion of a will to combat corruption. For instance, thePrevention of Corruption Act of 1960, which set up the 'Special Police Department' to deal with corruption, appears to have lost credibility in the eyes of the public due to lack of enforcement and growing corruption. According to Dr Pandey of Transparency International – Nepal, "This legislation provides that anyone who has assets not supported by known sources of income can be prosecuted for corruption. But no one has ever been investigated, let alone prosecuted, by invoking this provision." The Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA formed in 1990) was never used to investigate such abuses. At present, the law requires approval from the Prime Minister before any investigation is initiated against a minister. These extremely unsatisfactorily implemented texts and inactive investigatory bodies allow corruption to exist and grow.

 Panday (2001) argues that the individualistic and competitive values promoted by a liberal market often cause business circles and the civil society to negate their social obligations of fairness, justice and equality. Here,  Panday is referring to the fiercely competitive western-style 'neo-liberal' market ideology, which has been exported to Asia and Nepal (areas of considerably less affluence and equality of opportunity than western countries). Therefore, the competitive ideology and selfish values imported from 'the west' create corruption in such impoverished areas. This is because when there is much less opportunity to reach a position of affluence, people have to be corrupt to 'get ahead' in the global economy (especially when the competition consists of countries with a Gross National Product of more than 100 times that of their country).  
The importation of western 'consumer culture' may also to be a causal or sustaining factor of corruption in Nepal. The ideology of 'consumerism' attaches greater importance to instant gratification rather than to delayed benefits. The 'get rich quick' attitude prevails, and the aspiration to become rich and live a comfortable or even lavish lifestyle is a strong driving force for many people who comply with these values. For those who adhere to these new 'western' social norms, the temptation to engage in corrupt activities will be immense, especially when the realization dawns that it is not possible for the vast majority of people to achieve such economic success by legitimate means in Nepal.

From a somehow Neo-Marxist perspective, at the highest level of the political hierarchy, corruption can also be accounted for by other reasons than the 'greedy, selfish and individualistic' western consumer values. The fact that the political parties require extensive funds for their campaigns to maintain and increase public popularity (in-order to win the next election) may pressure them onto abusing their position and dishonestly obtaining the funds for their own survival in the democratic system. Therefore, the democratic system can be seen as a contributing factor to the corruption problem in Nepal because of its competitive nature. Rival parties tend to do as much as they can (including get involved in corrupt activities) to 'get ahead' in the race for votes and secure a position of power.

Political uncertainty can also be seen as a cause of corruption in Nepal. Frequent changes of government and officials create an unstable political system, which provides the optimum environment for corrupt activities to flourish. These frequent bureaucratic changes also create contradictory/volatile policies and legislations, which are wholly inconsistent with one another. Certain policies appear to be modified at will by high level policy-makers, often to suit their own needs : 'laws made by the powerful - for the powerful'.

Definition by: AMN Members
 
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