February 27, 2017    6 minute read

Global Corruption: Here to Stay?

The New Normal    February 27, 2017    6 minute read

Global Corruption: Here to Stay?

Something is very wrong with the global political elites and it strictly has to do with corruption. When one sees a country like South Korea being hit hard twice in less than a year, first with the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye at the end of 2016 and then the recent imprisonment of Samsung CEO Jay Y Lee, related to the same bribery allegations – then it seems corruption has become the new normal in global political and economic affairs.

Corruption: A Growing Trend?

If even countries with political cultures with less exposure to this issue, often based on strong moral values (a characteristic element of the Asian continent) are having this problem, something must be wrong. Fortunately for Asia, politicians implicated in corruption tend to be put aside from power soon after the cases are exposed – unlike other regions of the world, such as South America. But the issue with regards to South Korea illustrates a sad trend which is threatening to destroy the little remaining belief of global populations in their respective governments. This disheartening trend is all the more visible to the global public thanks to social media.

And in the last few years, iconic global organisations, institutions related to sports, and global oil markets have been embroiled in substantial scandals undermining their credibility – as well as their future performance if and tough measures are not taken to clean up the whole system that gave birth to the current corrupted state of affairs.

The sheer spread of recent prominent cases of corruption shows just how endemic the problem is:

1. Brazil

In Brazil, the once iconic state oil company Petrobras – a pioneer in offshore oil exploration and production – has sunk into a gigantic web of corruption which led almost immediately to the downfall of former president Mrs Dilma Rousseff, who is now under an impeachment process, and an attempt to clean up the entire corporation.

It remains to be seen if all these efforts will be fruitful when even the current administration led by President Michel Temer is under alleged accusations of corruption. This story, along with the newly discovered mega corruption case of construction tycoon Odebrecht, closely linked with Petrobras, seems to be on the point of unfolding and with serious implications for the entire South American region.

2. Fifa

How to forget the mega scandal plaguing the global football federation FIFA? In 2015 many top regional directors came under accusations and investigations and resulting in a complete reshuffling change of direction and seriously undermining and damaging the image of the federation representing the most popular sport in the world. The World Cup in Qatar will be a key testing point for a ‘renewed FIFA’ and its future.

3. OPEC

OPEC (the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries) has not avoided this plague of corruption: a former president of the bloc, the Nigerian Diezani Alison Madeuke was arrested in 2015 after being accused of mismanagement of funds, bribery, and illegal handling of oil funds, adding more fire and controversy to the already controversial dynamics of this oil cartel.

4. Romania

In Romania, people have been on the streets in many massive protests against its political system and elite, asking for the strengthening of laws against corruption. These have so far borne positive results: the government backtracked on its decision to decriminalise corruption.

5. Venezuela

In Venezuela, corruption has been the normal for a long time, with many top ranking government officials linked with a wide array of cases from drug smuggling to gasoline smuggling – even including involvement with international drug trafficking, supporting international insurgent groups and many more.

This has resulted in its credibility significantly diminished, though the opposition has also been accused of corruption and colluding with the government in many of these corruption cases. So the future so far looks uncertain for the country if no tough measures are applied beyond small punishments, which at the end of the day bear no fruit and no lesson for the political elite running a country rich in oil and natural gas.

6. Wikileaks

It is important to mention the myriad of corruption cases leaked and revealed by Wikileaks specifically linked to governments worldwide. The many sensitive issues revealed have considerably undermined the many governments’ credibility. A particularly significant example is the leaks exposing alleged shady links involving former presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the alleged Russian involvement in the hacking of her emails.

The Need for Change

It’s important to highlight the relevance of the recurrent cases of corruption to specific organisations like OPEC and FIFA since they wield important influence in the global economy. Public opinion of those organisations, and their credibility, risks being destroyed if corruption continues to be exposed and be the new normal.

These aforementioned cases are not the only ones happening in the world, but the idea at hand is to discuss the most prominent recent ones in order to outline what could be an alarming pattern. There is some positive news, though: the level of public awareness is higher than at any other time in history thanks to the help of social media and the action of civil rights and accountability watchdogs worldwide.

But yet again, when watching the trend of so-called ‘revolving doors’ between big corporations and financial institutions and high-ranking officials and governmental authorities, it is clear that corruption is here to stay for a while.

Finally, it’s worth taking a look at the chart below, produced by Transparency International in 2015. It is revealing to see how Scandinavian countries are ranking atop as the world’s least corrupt nations, along with some key Western European countries like Germany and Luxembourg. Few of the top rankers are in Asia – Singapore, is the only ‘very clean’ one in South-East Asia.

The United States sits in tenth position, though in general the majority of the least corrupted states are in the North Atlantic sphere of influence, including Australia and New Zealand. It seems that the rest of the world is lagging behind in the fight against corruption, which is at least one reason for which it’s fair to say that corruption is here to stay.
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