International Anti-corruption Day
As we observe International Anti-Corruption Day today, there are good reasons for us as a nation to devote some of our time to deep introspection of the issue that has eaten deep into the very fabric of the nation. Nothing very much has changed since the time Bangabandhu remarked that he was surrounded by a group of corrupt people. Actors have changed, modus have changed but the phenomenon has thrived like a pandemic virus. Every year on December 9, the world observes International Anti-Corruption Day, and this year we observe the day in the backdrop of the world pulverised by the most damaging disease in the last 100 years. Like all international days that we observe under UN auspices, the purpose of this day is to educate the public on issues of concern, and to mobilise political will and resources to address the problem.
What the UN Secretary General has said in his message on this day this year is extremely appropriate and relevant to us, particularly when we are struggling to combat the pandemic. Apart from the deleterious criminal character of corruption, it is an ultimate betrayal of public trust, even more damaging in times of crisis. He has hit the nail on the head by saying that the pandemic is creating new opportunities to exploit weak oversight and inadequate transparency, diverting funds away from people in their hour of greatest need. This is only too applicable to us. In Bangladesh, we are witness to the way the pandemic has been exploited without compunction to reap a windfall profit at the expense of public health.
As per the Corruption Perceptions Index 2019, Bangladesh scored 26 out of 100 points and was ranked 14th from the bottom and 146th from the top among 180 countries. We have scored far below than the global average score (43) and our position remains the second lowest for the seventh consecutive year among eight South Asian countries—lower than all except Afghanistan. The government may bin the report as much as it likes, but the reality cannot be wished away.
Opportunities for corruption and making black money, crony capitalism, and lack of oversight can easily be tackled if the administration wants to. The foreign minister has spilled the beans by revealing that politicians and bureaucrats are vying with one another in laundering ill-gotten money abroad. Corruption is bad, but corruption in high places is more damaging to national interest and state security. It needs political will to combat. Will it be forthcoming?