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Weeding out the corrupt...

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By Gordon Boyle


At the weekend I met a good friend who lives on the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland border and with all the noise presently about Brexit and the border we discussed possible outcomes and their impact.

I always knew that there has been a lot of smuggling over the years across this border and there were articles written about farm animals being moved back and forth across the border to maximise subsidy payments.

Presently corruption costs the world economy $2.6 trillion each year, according to the United Nations representing more than five per cent of global GDP. $1trn of the money stolen annually through corruption is in the form of bribes.

Here in Bahrain I’m sure many of you have seen the sign boards asking for those who are aware of corruption to contact the General Directorate of Anti-corruption and Economic and Electronic Security. I’ve also seen the good news that the directorate has dealt with more than 60 cases of corruption in Bahrain this year.

Corruption is not limited by geography or political boundaries, but it is obvious that in countries with low corruption there is economic success. The latest Transparency International Corruption Index has New Zealand and Denmark ranked highest with Syria, South Sudan and Somalia ranked lowest. The best performing region is Western Europe and the worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

The good news is the fact that more and more high-profile cases are being investigated.

A court in Milan is currently considering charges of corruption against Eni and Shell in a controversial oil deal that led to Nigeria losing an estimated $6 billion.

In Japan Carlos Ghosn, chairman of Nissan, was arrested last month for allegedly conspiring to understate his income by about half for at least five years from 2010.

Last year the president of South Korea was sent to jail for 25 years after a corruption scandal that toppled her from power.

Just last week Israeli police said they had found enough evidence for bribery and fraud charges to be brought against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife.

Corruption is one of the easiest topics to talk about. Nobody likes it, nobody defends it and, no matter how harshly you attack it, you will receive a sympathetic ear. The sad truth is that there is no country free of this stain on our dignity. This, of course, does not mean that fighting corruption is pointless or hopeless.

Hundreds, thousands of people all over the world risk their lives and careers every day to make their society a bit less corrupt. It is an uphill, difficult battle, but each step is worth the risk and the effort. It improves not only the countries that make a determined effort to eradicate this cancer, but also the everyday life of ordinary citizens.

Ultimately, what matters are changes in behaviours. We need to have a mind-set with everyone thinking twice before engaging in corrupt practices? We also need the support of the authorities to take the necessary action to prevent corruption.

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