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The problem of corruption

Updated on May 13, 2016

When I thought of writing about corruption, my absolute inexperience made it seem a daunting task while its wide prevalence made it seem a compelling topic.

There are innumerable reports, essays, documents and slide presentations full of homilies on why corruption is so bad and what needs to be done to control it. So much has in fact been written that there is virtually nothing more to be said. But it’s also true that corruption has all the while kept on increasing!

I do not suffer from any grandiose pretension that a single article would clean up the world, but you would agree that there is a decent case for a 1200 word hub. So I decided that I would research adequately, talk to practitioners of the craft and write a simple hub on “how to become corrupt in 30 days.’ This brilliant idea was immediately shot down by friends and well-wishers with only a hard stare that seemed to ask “What’s wrong with you?” I explained that corruption was trendy and it was as important as any other skill to become successful in today’s world. I was told I was being cynical. I argued that corruption was no longer a dirty word, especially when it gets couched in terms like consultancy, lobbying and agency commissions. This too didn’t work. So there I was, left with no choice but to take a serious look at a very serious matter!


Corruption has various connotations ranging from mundane bribery to spiritual or moral imperfection. A techie may immediately think of data getting corrupted, but for the layperson corruption would broadly imply a process of deriving unfair or illegitimate personal gain by people in public (or private) office. Naturally, it involves dishonesty and taking what is not rightfully yours through bribery, nepotism or patronage, but as we become more and more advanced, corruption too has become sophisticated and may mean, money laundering kickbacks and tax havens.

Corruption in ancient times

Corruption is as old as recorded history finding mention in the ancient Indian treatise Arthashastra (c. 280 BC) and also alluded to as one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire (476 AD).

Corruption has therefore been part of our existence leading some to believe that corruption can only be controlled and never eradicated.

Current state

Transparency International, a global civil society organization publishes periodical research reports as part of their fight against corruption. In the latest 2015 report, they say that in their Corruption Perception Index (a measure of perceived levels of public sector corruption worldwide), not one of the 168 countries gets a perfect score and more than two-thirds scored below fifty on a scale of 1 to 100, (1 being highly corrupt and 100 being very clean), indicating a serious corruption problem. When it comes to individual countries, Denmark topped the list with a score of 91 followed closely by Finland (90), Sweden (89), New Zealand (88) Netherlands (87) and Norway (87), while at the bottom of the list, tying for the last position are Somalia and North Korea with a score of 8.

In some related news, Global Financial Integrity released a report in December 2015 saying that developing and emerging economies lost $7.8 trillion in illicit financial flows from 2004 through 2013. Illicit outflows increased at an average rate of 6.5 percent per year - nearly twice as fast as global GDP!


The fact that it’s a very old disease prevalent from ancient times suggests that corruption is a product of something intrinsic – our greed or selfishness or the corrupting quality of power. At the same time the fact that there seems to be large variation between countries (though corruption is a global phenomenon), suggests that whatever the causal factors, checks and controls do work and can help in the fight against corruption.

Negative impact

The negative impact of corruption is quite well known.

For the common citizen it adds to the cost of goods and services, as an avoidable cost gets added to the usual legitimate costs. Day to do transactions become cumbersome and the honest get penalized while the dishonest go scot-free. Citizens end up having to pay bribes for legitimate public services that they are entitled to, while the illegitimate earnings from such bribes swells the black money in circulation and brings in serious distortions to the economy.

The efficiency of governmental intervention for social welfare or other public good becomes inefficient as seepages prevent proper delivery or use of resources. International institutions too become wary to assist countries where corruption is high. The value of merit gets eroded and the rule of law breaks down as anything can be done (or not done) provided payment is made. The general breakdown of checks and balances promotes an amoral culture that gradually permeates all aspects of life, weakens institutions and erodes the quality of life.

The direct and indirect impact is so large and widespread that it would take many pages to list them down.


Generally, a slew of tough initiatives to provide quick exemplary punishment would be essential. The state should convey a strong zero tolerance stance to curb the menace and take steps to support sufficient deterrence to would-be offenders. This can be achieved by enacting tough laws that provide for confiscation of assets and jail terms. The executive needs to provide sufficient freedom, personnel and resources to investigating agencies involved in tracking and prosecuting such offenders. The judiciary can play a key role by providing quick disposal of corruption cases to ensure that justice is delivered without delay. Equally important would be measures to increase transparency, by enacting laws to grant right to information to the citizens and protection and encouragement to whistleblowers. Donations to political parties should be regulated and transparency ensured. The citizens should be educated about the economic and other costs of corruption and how they can contribute in the fight against corruption. No country in the world can claim to be free of corruption but serious concerted efforts can pay rich dividends and reduce corruption drastically. The experience of New Zealand, Denmark and Singapore can provide valuable lessons in formulating anti-corruption measures and policies. An independent media can play a crucial support role as a watchdog in curbing the menace.

Just as the state and institutions initiate measures to curb corruption, it is equally important for the citizens to be educated about the negative and corrosive effect of corruption so that there is a conscious drive to stop paying bribes and instead demand the services that one is entitled to. When we have global campaigns to fight HIV or save wildlife, why not have a global movement against corruption with people’s participation? If smallpox could be eradicated, it may not be too much to expect corruption to be controlled and brought within manageable levels where it’s deleterious impact is not so pronounced.


Corruption is all too common in the big bad world of adults even as our schools prescribe truth, integrity and morality as the way to go for children. If the newspapers carry one kind of reporting and the schools inculcate and enjoin adoption of a different set of values, there should be some good reason for this strange phenomenon. Granted that its not as stark as that, and of course, similar disconnects can be observed in many other areas – mainly because schools nudge you closer to ideals whereas the news presents the hard and often harsh reality – but the contrast is very striking when it comes to corruption.


Submit a Comment
  • profile image

    Siddhartha Bandyopadhyay 

    6 years ago

    As you know most of the communities (Bengali or Tamils) in this sub-continent are infected by 'Culture of Poverty(hopelessness)' syndrome, irrespective of class or economic strata, lives in pavement or apartment. Nobody is seriously ashamed of or regret the deep-rooted corruption, decaying general quality of life, worst Politico-Governance, bad work place, weak mother language, filth, continuous consumption of common social space (mental as well as physical, both). Do not ever look for any other positive alternative gesture/values to perform a real way of parenthood - deliberately stop giving birth to any child him/herself till the entire society improves up to the mark, co-parenting children those are born out of extreme poverty, instead. We are becoming parents only by self-procreation - mindlessly, blindfold (supported by some lame excuses), depriving the children's fundamental rights(of a decent & caring society, fearless & dignified living). We are being driven by the very animal instinct, pushing persons for a nasty living, indulging the entire community to go perish. If the Bengali people ever opt for a freedom from vicious cycle of poverty, need to involve in Production of Space(Henri Lefebvre), form a positive sentiment to overcome the inherent ‘hopeless’ mindset, definite application of human dignity, decent & fair Politics would certainly come up. – SB, 16/4, Girish Banerjee Lane, Howrah -711101, India.

  • sweetie1 profile image


    6 years ago from India

    Hi Vinod,

    In a country where it takes years to get judgement in murder or terrorism cases, corruption cases surely can not take priority over them and would take even more time for sure. This cause people not to report it because they know they wont get anything but would be target for harassment in future.

  • Vinodkpillai profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Thanks a lot sathimano,j for your comment and for linking this hub to your squidoo lens.

  • sathimanoj profile image

    Manoj Balakrishnan 

    6 years ago from Abu Dhabi

    Verry informative hub. If i read this before i make the lens , I can quote yo in it. Any way I am adding a back liknk in it

  • Vinodkpillai profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Thanks Isabellas! Your comment made me reflect on the fact that those of us who realise that corruption corrodes our systems and degrades the quality of life for everybody, will work to contain or obstruct corruption. Unfortunately there will always be those who think that the private gain that comes from corruption is more important than the overall damage that it causes. So it will always remain a tussle......

  • Isabellas profile image


    6 years ago from Ohio

    Great information! I never thought about corruption and how it is coming into life on a regular basis. However, I know this is some great information and hopefully I am able to keep my children protected from any form of corruption.

  • Vinodkpillai profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Thanks prairieprincess, for your comment. Yes it would make the world a better place, if only....

  • prairieprincess profile image

    Sharilee Swaity 

    8 years ago from Canada

    Wow, Vino, this addresses a very important and big topic. How sad that we so often take corruption for granted, having heard it so many times on the news. I agree that if governments took a harsh stance against it, it would make the world a better place. It is like a blanket that seems to cover so much of the world, though, and it is so difficult to get a grip on it.

    We should never start trying, though, because, if we are not getting better, we are always getting worse!

    I appreciate your willingness to take on such big and important topics like this. Great job.

  • Vinodkpillai profile imageAUTHOR


    8 years ago from Hyderabad, India

    Thanks Larry for your encouragement, and - more importantly - adding your own thoughts and info relating to corruption which indeed is a vexed problem. This hub benefits - and so a bigger Thanks!

  • maven101 profile image


    8 years ago from Northern Arizona

    Brilliant commentary , analysis, and suggestions for solutions to this insidiously prevalent culture of corruption throughout the world...

    How do you get politicians, police officers, high court judges and senior civil servants, those who obviously have most to gain from a corrupt system, to strengthen the institutions and put in place systems that would work against their own interests?

    The core of the problem is at the top...Strict law enforcement, such as in Singapore is one answer, education is another...The maxim: " What you allow is what you teach ", is exactly what human nature conforms to and will follow..

    A worldwide music competition launched by the Jeunesses Musicales Foundation, World Bank Institute, and Global Youth Anti-Corruption Network is a step in the right direction.

    The competition is open to young musicians/bands (18 – 35 years), with the 3 winning bands selected by a jury travel to Nairobi to participate in the 2nd Global Anti-Corruption Forum.

    Voted up and useful...Thanks, Larry


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