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Two sides of the same coin
by Amin George Forji
2006-11-18 10:27:29
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Theoretically, the world began this millennium on a very good footing, with mankind more united than ever before in the boisterous ambition to make the world a better place for all. This commitment was unanimously adopted in September 2000 by the world body (that is, UNO) in what became known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

In essence, MDGs are both a vision and target on development that all member states of the UN General Assembly have agreed to try to attain before the 2015. There are eight goals:

Goal 1: Eradicate Extreme Hunger and Poverty
Goal 2: Achieve Universal Primary Education
Goal 3: Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Goal 4: Reduce Child Mortality
Goal 5: Improve Maternal Health
Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria and other diseases
Goal 7: Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

It would not be an exaggeration to say that poverty overshadows all the other MDG goals. People lack access to basic needs, such as education, health and food because of a lack of basic disposable income. The MDGs are all laudable objectives, but the road to achieving them is filled with obstacles.

With the poverty threshold set at $1 a day, the miracle of the millennium is ironically not that the MDGs are not yet attainable, but rather that more than 65% of people in the Third World still cannot afford it. Paradoxically, most of these countries, especially in Africa which tails the poverty chart, are endowed with abundance of natural resources.

Earlier this week, the anti-corruption organization, Transparency International, released its annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), ranking countries according to the level of transparency and corruption. Their findings found developing countries championing corruption in all levels of society, from governments, judiciary functions, civil society, military and other services. However, compared with the developed countries, which in the same report, are shown to be largely more transparent and accountable, only demonstrates the strong link between poverty and corruption.

All the corrupt countries, in fact, are poor countries and as Transparency International's Chair Huguette Labelle rightly said at press conference after the release of the 2006 CPI, "Corruption traps millions in poverty. Despite a decade of progress in establishing anti-corruption laws and regulations, today’s results indicate that much remains to be done before we see meaningful improvements in the lives of the world’s poorest citizens."

How Does Corruption Produce Poverty?

The relationship between poverty and corruption, although easy to say, is a complicated one in nature. Corruption in itself may not per se produce poverty, bit it rather aggravates conditions that lead to poverty, such as exacerbating the difference between the haves and the have-nots. Thus, the relationship between the two, although as real as the sun and the moon, remains an indirect one.

Nevertheless, the results of corruption have direct consequences on social, economic and governmental factors, which in turn produce poverty. This relationship is not one-sided. Corruption also has its indirect origins to poverty. Most societies become corrupt because the means are limited, with the only law that works being the survival of the fittest. In scrambling over the scarce means, people eventually become corrupt; he who illegally gives the highest, gets all to the detriment of all others.

Hence, countries that are experiencing chronic poverty become excellent breeding grounds for corruption, and vice-versa. It is a perpetual oscillating circle of inequalities and reactions. It operates from two principal levels, notably the economic and the government.

Firstly, economically wise, corruption handicaps normal economic growth factors, as services are diverted from their intended directions. As a result, people lose confidence in the system, reducing economic investments and, consequently, supply becomes insufficient, just as much as incomes are already insufficient. The result is that poverty is exacerbated. This increased corruption reduces economic growth and increases incomes inequality, thereby increasing poverty.

Second is the government. Corruption handicaps normal governance factors by weakening the capacity of the government to deliver basic public services and needs, as these have been diverted to inappropriate quarters exacerbating the budgetary pressures on government. The fact is that permanent distortions from which corrupt groups of individuals can benefit more than others are created in the corruption process. Corruption thus lowers the level of intended public infrastructures. The outcome evidently is increased poverty.

In the end, increased corruption reduces governmental capacity to act and serve, which in turn increases the level of poverty.

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Sand2006-11-20 00:47:50
The broad statement that corruption is rife in poor countries is most peculiar considering the activities of corporations in the USA and their obvious power in government. And the voting processes in the USA is also shot through with all sorts of corruption ranging from the redistricting processes through the falibility of the voting machines and the improper disqualfication of eligible voters.

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