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Andre Peillex, Nantes, France
"Corruption is unavoidable"
 real 28k

Tarun Tegbal, Tehelka.com, India
"It affects the way people work with each other"
 real 28k

Jorge A. Almeida Chiriboga, Australia
"Corruption was just part of our lives"
 real 28k

Max Mehajan, Singapore
"Why does he need all that money?"
 real 28k

Ganesh Aiyer, India
"We're resigned to the fact that this happens"
 real 28k

Denis Cosgrove, Portsmouth, UK
"Low salaries make people corrupt"
 real 28k

Bill Mills, Nepal
"It's seen as a convenience"
 real 28k

Dennis McCormack, Australia
"The line tends to be blurred at a business level"
 real 28k

Tim Symonds, Tunbridge Wells, UK
"There is a lot of money to be made in politics"
 real 28k

Monday, 11 June, 2001, 07:41 GMT 08:41 UK
Is corruption inevitable?

Select the link below to watch Talking Point On Air

Corruption is back in the spotlight following the jailing of France's former foreign minister, Roland Dumas.

Mr Dumas was caught in a huge web of corruption centred around the state oil giant Elf Aquitaine. But his is not the only recent case.

In the Philippines, former president Joseph Estrada is being prosecuted for illegal enrichment. Senior Indian politicians were recently filmed taking bribes from fake arms dealers.

And this is only the highly visible side of corruption. Every day, ordinary people have to bribe just to get basic services, like a telephone or an official document.

Is corruption inevitable? What is the cost of all this backhand dealing, and who is paying it? What is it like in your country?

Lyse Doucet was joined by Jeremy Pope from Transparency International for Talking Point on Air, a radio phone-in programme on BBC World Service. You can add to the debate by using the form below.

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


Your reaction

  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme

    I had an accident with a cyclist. He got hurt and was bleeding. I sent him to hospital in an auto rickshaw and went to police station to register the accident. The police demanded Rs.200 to take complaint. To push the case quickly, the police demanded another 200. Then, after two weeks I appeared before the judge in the court. The judge and lawyer had a tie. If I don't pay 100 for judge, then judge would penalize me for Rs.1000. Otherwise I would pay Rs.500 as penalty and Rs.100 for judge. To accept the penalty, the cashier in the court demanded Rs.25. With whom can I lodge a complaint? Or where do you want to bang your head? I slowly learnt to forgive 99 dirty creatures for one good soul. Human is predatory, nothing satisfies him.
    Ramesh, India


    What is important is to keep the rule of law so that corruption is minimised

    Pete Swinford, USA
    To corrupt something is to alter its purity. As long as we have the genetically provided motivation to pursue advantage, corruption will be a path to said advantage. What is important is to keep the rule of law so that corruption is minimised, increasing opportunity for the rest of society, which reduces the need for corruption.
    Pete Swinford, Lafayette, Indiana, USA

    The history of corruption is as old as mankind and as such has eaten deep into the fabric of all societies. Anyone that thinks he can eradicate corruption is performing an impossible task. However, it can be curtailed.
    Saave Linus, Lagos, Nigeria

    Of course, corruption is inevitable if the wrong leaders are in power. Politicians are human beings and part of our role as voters, in such countries as can vote, is to make a judgement of the candidates to decide who is a moral being and who is not. That is not to say we should not be tough on those politicians who are corrupt; they deserve everything they get. But in a democracy, the only people with the power to make things better are the common voters.
    Daniel Wareing, England, UK

    Corruption will always occur as long as there are greedy and self-serving people in positions of power and influence. Trying to wipe out corruption is a waste of time - it will always happen, either openly or discreetly. The trick is not to get caught - a trick that obviously Dumas never learnt.
    Mark O'Neill, Würzburg, Germany


    Anyone with integrity is unable to make it politically or in big business

    Leigh, USA (UK orig)
    Corruption is inevitable, for as long as we continue to encourage and promote the success of corruptible people through business and politics. I don't concede that dishonesty is a fundamental human trait; it just seems that way because anyone with integrity is unable to make it politically or in big business. As soon as anybody with real political principle makes their views known in a public forum they are labelled with some puerile tag like "loony left", Tony Benn being a good example. In a world where money, and the desire to accumulate it, is the absolute driving force in every society then who else can you expect to be in charge other than people whose personal ambitions extend no further than their bank accounts?
    Leigh, USA (UK orig)

    Corruption is like cancer. It spreads like cancer. There is no cure for corruption. It is everywhere. In India it is also everywhere. You can't stop it. It is like an everyday thing. You have to give bribe in order to get your work done. If you don't take bribe, you will get your transfer order next day. If the top politicians take bribe, then who will stop the lower working class people to take bribe? It all starts from the top. I wish someone could find a cure for corruption.
    Rajeev Soorma, USA

    Corruption is a social ill that spares no people, no colour, no social stratum and no country. However, it is very relative and manifests itself in various forms but gnaws the pride of the people, thwarts bureaucracies and perverts justice. Corruption could run from sexual favours, appointments to under-table cash. But though done in secret, corruption can never and will never be buried. Even when we succeed to bury it, years after it will resurrect and witness against its very fathers and mothers.
    Hamilton Ayuk, Cameroon US


    It is time that we as a society took the blame for the culture of corruption

    Kus, KTM, Nepal
    If I talk about my own country, where the average person only has complaints for the rife corruption and impropriety in decision making, it is people who voted for them, there are still intellectuals who support them and most likely they will win election again. But if we look across the general society (in city), almost everybody is looking to cheat - meters in taxis are tampered with, if you do not know the price, the shopkeeper will charge you more, and the example goes on. So why do we only blame others? It is time that we as a society took the blame for the culture of corruption and improved the perception of right and wrong and what is acceptable.
    Kus, KTM, Nepal

    There is nowhere that is totally free of corruption as long as people are involved. There is little overt corruption in Canada, but it is always difficult to see problems in your own house. There are places in the world where corruption is a way of life. I believe that penalties for persons in positions of authority or political power should be very high. Because they are in authority, they must be held to the highest possible standard and, when caught, pay the highest possible price for the abuse of that authority. No one is perfect, but we expect those in positions of trust to be trustworthy.
    Ken Klakowich, Vancouver, Canada

    As Alexander Hamilton put it so succinctly, "if angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary".
    T.J. Cassidy, USA

    As regards corruption, anyone who observes and understands human nature and human behaviour would have to be brain dead to think that corruption is not a basic feature in human activity. It is too bad that here in the USA we cannot do something to reduce the amount of corruption, but we cannot.
    The Cynic, Cincinnati USA


    The system has continued for years

    Joe Ryan, Paris, France
    Corruption in France was inevitable. Despite the revolution a "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours" elite is created by the highly structured education system that exists. Right and left rub shoulders at institutions that set them aside from the common man and breed a 'corporatism' that invades public life. With a very acquiescent media, highly prone to political pressure, the system has continued for years. However, young judges and politicians, born post WWII, seem to want to make the system more transparent.
    Joe Ryan, Paris, France

    I'm sure that regardless of where they are, politicians the world over enjoy a bit of corruption now and then. It might be interesting to find out if those higher-ranking politicians have participated, though. They may have been clever enough not to get caught out.
    Arkady, Tokyo, Japan

    Corruption in the USA is not as bad on a personal level, as in the Philippines or in Mexico. However, on another level, it can be amazing. The way political campaigns are funded explains just why George Bush Jr was appointed president and his many activities as Governor of Texas. Big oil got exemptions from pollution regulations. Forming a union will get you fired. Public health is a shame, but we do have great highways.
    Joe, Texas, USA

    Defeating corruption requires vigilance. Vigilance requires the selfless efforts of a critical mass of moral individuals in society to help stomp out corruption. Unfortunately the contemporary social attitude is pure self-absorption, and society is increasingly full of apathy and full of the unpatriotic. The corrupt love the lazy and love those who quietly enjoy seeing harm being done - so corruption prevails.
    Stephen Kenney, USA

    People are only human and ALL human beings are prone to succumbing to temptation. How about installing a complex, moderated computer system to run governments around the world? You can't bribe a machine!
    Tim, London, UK


    It's an abuse of the very standards that the human race sets itself to uphold

    Phil W, Bristol, UK
    Because corruption exists, does not mean to say it's right. It's an abuse of the very standards that the human race sets itself to uphold. If Finland can uphold such high standards, and still do well, why can't others?
    Phil W, Bristol, UK

    In Scotland, parliament voted on some legislation to compensate fishermen, only for the executive to overturn the democratic will of the people because it didn't suit them. If that was done in a country like Iraq it would be considered the height of corruption, yet in voting-apathetic Britain this is accepted without fuss. That's democracy for you: politicians are allowed to be corrupt, but only with the tacit consent of the people.
    John McVey, Scotland


    An inevitable phenomenon in the global community

    Debebe D, London, UK
    I could not agree more that corruption is an inevitable phenomenon in the global community. I strongly believe that the practice, though relative to locations, is an endemic component of our economic fabric. This tends to be true whether it's a market economy, socialist and/ or traditional systems. The difference being on how it is regulated and to what extent it is tolerated by societies. I think no one could cite a corruption free country/ system or disprove it otherwise.
    Debebe D, London, UK

    Living as we humans do, bribery, corruption, or lobbying is our ancient method of bartering. What we need is to have a global governance representative of the people working at the grassroots level, so that no human is poor and no human is exceedingly rich, as wealth is measured where I live as your health. Oiling the wheel of the machine just means someone else gets crushed in the process. Working to one peaceful, loving end is the only way on a large scale.
    Jason, Canada

    Corruption is inevitable. Human nature makes it unavoidable.
    Peter Bolton, UK in US

    The easiest way to stop petty corruption in society is to forget the concept that all services should be supplied equally to all people. This is a very hard step to take and to some extent undermines the equality of citizens in a society. But it is the correct step.
    R. Tay, Singapore

    In this part of Switzerland people talk of "copinage" - a sort of "it's who you know". It is considered quite normal by respectable individuals to use links with people they know to get jobs, obtain favours or even avoid police punishment. Is this corruption?
    David Henderson, Sion, Switzerland

    In developing countries corruption is rife because wages are really low. It is accepted as part of life by the people and viewed merely as a means of oiling the machinery to get daily activities done smoothly without hassle. Corruption takes many forms and in developed countries it is camouflaged as lobbying. Multinational corporations pay for costly political campaigns and when their candidate wins it is pay back time.
    Chin Swee, Australia

    Your comments during the programme


    Transparency International has done an excellent job here in Slovakia in the past few years

    Viliam, Slovakia
    Transparency International has done an excellent job here in Slovakia in the past few years. It has made the issue of corruption a permanent topic of discussion, and a good number of public figures have had to leave their posts in disgrace, labelled as corrupt - while the TE's Slovak representative has been proclaimed the woman of the year! But there's still a long way to go, especially at lower levels - hospitals, school entry examinations, permits, etc. Such cases rarely hit the news...
    Viliam, Slovakia

    As long as society is capital orientated, corruption is inevitable. We're living in a society where everyone wants to amass as much wealth as he/ she can. Someone wants to be a millionaire, and a millionaire wants to be a billionaire. So some will try dubious means to get to the top quicker.
    Danny Kwapa, Botswana

    Everywhere you go you see corruption. I've just come back from Syria and couldn't believe what I saw - you have to pay for everything there. At the airport I even had to pay for my passport so that I could get it earlier than other people.
    Karzan Abdullah, Atlanta, USA

    In my country corruption used to be common practice everywhere from a higher level to the lower grass roots. It was becoming part of our traditional cultural values and it was feared that it might not be controlled by the government of Pakistan. Now things have changed a bit under the military regime. But it is still a far-fetched idea to say that corruption can be removed from the world. It's like a contagious disease which has infected the whole structure of government.
    Saima Ahsan, Pakistan


    Corruption is inevitable

    Edward, Zug, Switzerland
    Corruption is inevitable, but certain circumstances can increase it to grotesque proportions. Here elected parliamentary members are expected to be board members of various businesses as their only source of income. This region also has very low tax rates which have combined to make corruption such a way of life in providing a high and regular source of revenue that it seems to be no longer noticed. For many, therefore, it ceases to be a problem of conscience.
    Edward, Zug, Switzerland

    I'm from Ecuador in South America where corruption is just part of our lives. Two years ago I got my ID and driver's licence stolen from my car. The right thing to do was to go and apply for them again. But it was a process that could take too long, so I did what everybody else does, I paid someone to get the documents for me.
    Jorge A. Almeida Chiriboga, Toowoomba, Australia

    Should we leave behind or give tips when a service is rendered? Should we give presents on birthdays or during festive seasons? If 'yes' to all of the above, are we not practising and encouraging a kind of corruption?
    Philip QCN, Singapore

    Your comments before we went ON AIR


    Limit politicians to a fixed term in office

    Werner L. Stunkdl, Lake Forest, Illinois, USA
    The only way to minimise graft is to limit politicians to a fixed term in office. There are so many professional politicians, particularly in the US. For example, former President Clinton has never worked in the private sector!
    Werner L. Stunkdl, Lake Forest, Illinois, USA

    Having had the "good fortune" of attending a private school in one of the most highly corrupt countries in the world (Bangladesh), I was able to see corruption in action from very close quarters. I was surrounded by the sons and daughters of the elite, most of whom have amassed their enormous fortunes, courtesy of rampant corruption.
    Asif Hadi, Sydney, Australia

    What is corruption? Accepting an expensive pair of shoes for turning a blind eye to the activities of a friendly company is. But surely, so is accepting campaign funds from big corporations and then reneging on global environmental treaties? It's just that little bit harder to be caught red-handed.
    David Gatenby, Düsseldorf, Germany


    There are no inevitable crimes

    Jarek, Poland
    Rule No.1: Corruption is an ordinary crime! Rule No.2: There are no inevitable crimes! Personally I'm very glad to watch the news nowadays which clearly show that no politician, neither in the Far East nor in the "civilized" West can feel safe when taking bribes. No matter how powerful he is...or used to be. Mr. Kohl and Mr. Dumas...
    Jarek, Poland

    Is there any country in this world that is not corrupt? Corruption exists because there is a giver and a taker. The giver corrupts because he wants the rules to be bent so that he can make a quick profit. The taker need corrupt money to satisfy his. As long as there is greed in a society there will be corruption. One might say India, Indonesia, Nigeria, and the Philippines are the most corrupt of all nations in the world. I would include USA. The American President is elected through a complicated system that paves the way for business lobbies to fund parties for future favours. Just one example; no president would go against China trade in spite of human rights violations because of American investments in China. This is an example of indirect corruption.
    VENKAT , HONGKONG

    As appeared on these web pages and in the Economist, the least corrupt nation in the world is Finland. As an Englishman living here for a few years now, I can understand why. The Finns are also the third most competitive nation in the world in terms of economic performance, government and business efficiency and infrastructure (Time May 7th from World Competitiveness Yearbook). This proves that it can pay not to be corrupt and still be very effective in business.
    Mark, Helsinki, Finland


    Whether we accept it or not, it is everywhere

    Kadavul, San Jose, USA
    In one country it is called fund-raising (forgetting about following decisions, the administration makes in favour of the donors), and in some other country it is straight pay-upfront-and-get what you want. Whether we accept it or not, it is everywhere. However we should also accept that not all are corrupt. I had a chance to act corrupt in my career with government, but never succumbed to it.
    Kadavul, San Jose, USA

    It takes a strong character to withstand temptation in high places...
    Ron Brandenburg, Rijswijk, The Netherlands

    Bribery, corruption, embezzlement has always been with us - its human nature. I think the 95% of people, given the opportunity, would accept a bribe - if they thought that no one would know.
    Barry, London

    Accepting that corruption is widespread, albeit a lot less obvious in first world countries than in developing or third world countries, the problem is that those who see it and report it are the losers. How can this be changed? How can the "whistle blower" be supported and upheld?
    Cameron Davis, Lagos, Nigeria


    To say it is inevitable is to condone it

    C Whybrow, Philippines
    It is all very well for the protesters in America and Europe to call for forgiveness of debt to Third World countries, saying that debt is keeping them in poverty. In reality corruption in government is what is bringing these countries to their knees. To say it is inevitable is to condone it.
    Chris W Whybrow, Baguio City, Philippines

    I thought the whole reason that bureaucracies were invented wasn't to eliminate corruption, but to minimize corruption by compartmentalizing and limiting the damage that anyone person can do. But methinks the paradigm has changed in the age of automation, as now a single person in the right spot with the inclination and skill can wreak havoc.
    Edward L. Nemil, US

    I guess the comment about "Power corrupts" comes to peoples mind, but I don't take that negative view. It assumes that everybody is corruptible, it assumes the concept of original sin to be true.

    I think it is more accurate to say: "Power attracts the corruptible". There can be honesty in politics/business/etc, but we are force-fed a diet of movies and media that tell us that everyone has skeletons in their closet. The majority no longer look for, hope for nor expect honesty, and the expectation breeds the result.
    Alain, England

    Power simply corrupts, and that is why we should simply not trust people with power, be it a politician or the saint next door!
    Harry, Leeds, UK

    The issue of corruption will never go away until we reach the Utopia, where everybody's dreams of a better life have been fulfilled. As long as poverty, class, hegemony of control, etc exist there will be corruption. "What is in it for me?", as I call it here in Kenya, will continue to bring down politicians, and other people of power. In West Africa the Ibos say "He who brings kola brings life", I think this is corruption in the essence of the struggle to excel, in today's rat-race job market and super profit goals.
    Alire, Nairobi, Kenya

    Where there is power there is corruption, always has been always will be...
    Patrik, Stockholm, Sweden


    It's surprising it's not more widespread

    JC, Sweden
    Lets face it, most of us would like a good salary hike. What happens if you refuse? Thankfully as a laboratory worker I'm not in a "bribeable" situation. It does seem to be part of business culture in some far eastern countries though. Sad. It's surprising it's not more widespread.
    JC, Sweden

    In my country we had so much corruption. We were in major debt with our allies and our financial connections for example with the World Funds. We were in so much trouble when Nawaz Sharif was in power...he was found to have taken most of the money and saved it for himself. Our military decided enough is enough and ousted the money hungry PM out of office. This year I came back to see the country I had once left and saw a major positive change. There are more jobs, less poverty, more water, more food, more security and the list goes on. It is good to have an uncorrupt regime. So whatever the world says about us getting back to democracy, they should first see what kind of corruption they have in their government.
    Ali, Pakistan

    Corruption is part of us. We all want to hook some up or if we want something done and we know someone, we consider it easily done. It is ingrained in our speech when we say that we know the right people or "we have the right contacts". These right contacts may have to bend a little too, in order to accommodate our requests. Basically when one person causes the other to be corrupt, none of them is less guilty than the other. But as long as our mentality remains like this, we are destined to be a corrupt race, some more than others.
    Hansel Ramathal, New Jersey, USA


    Can be minimised within a properly designed and maintained regime

    P, UK
    Due to human nature it is inevitable, but can be minimised within a properly designed and maintained regime - in the same way as most of us don't burgle our neighbours' houses. However, it is far more likely now since the last Tory government replaced the notion of Public Service with that of Authority Without Responsibility.
    p,uk

    A certain amount is inevitable. Certainly reliance on economic systems with little or no competition for services, where success is determined by who one knows is more than what one knows, virtually guarantees a higher level of corruption. This is obviously true for more strongly socialist systems because one party (the government) provides so many of life's services or make all of the decisions and they are a monopoly.
    George Milton, Baltimore Md and Rome Italy


    Corruption almost goes with the job

    Mike, England
    Power breeds corruption. The more power a person has, the more corrupt they tend to be. It's a simple truth. Very few people have the personal self-control required to prevent them from abusing the system. Then, once the first abuse has occurred, which may be very minor, more and worse abuses come easier and easier. You can see it everywhere. In business, if a director gets caught committing some serious offence, they normally take early retirement or just leave. They don't normally get prosecuted or sacked. Politicians are very similar. Corruption almost goes with the job. There are also different types of corruption. Is claiming benefits you are technically allowed, but morally shouldn't corruption? Is claiming for 1st class air fares and actually travelling by train corruption (EU MEPS)?
    Mike, England

    Corruption is only inevitable if your organisation has poor systems of control, lazy management and an ethos of corruption. Something that cannot be said about our much maligned public services. Our civil service as an example is probably one of the finest in the world well controlled and full of people with a genuine public servant spirit. How easily such ideals are lost if they are not nurtured.
    Gerry, Scotland

    Unfortunately this seems to be the way of things these days. There is such a focus in society on being rich that greed has taken over. People are susceptible to money, at the end of the day, we all need it, but we cannot stop at what we need, we have to have more. To get to the position of importance, unfortunately it may be necessary to get there by not strictly legitimate means, as if you don't act underhandedly, someone else will. Unfortunately the good guys rarely win these days.
    Andrew, UK

    Yes, in any organization where power and money flow freely corruption is going to and does happen. However we must remember that a lot of our politicians become civil servants out of a feeling of duty and a bond with their fellow citizens. Many truly want to serve their neighbours and do whatever they can to make sure their concerns are voiced. It is sad a few bad apples ruin the perception of our elected officials.
    Paul Barden, Trail Creek in the USA


    It is not wise to generalise corruption as inevitable.

    Kabali, Australia
    I think that it is not wise to generalise corruption as inevitable. Rather I think the primary cause for corruption in the modern world is due to its current emphasis on the automatic acceptance of any profit, sustained growth forever, more comfort at the expense of anything and the growth of multi-national organisations even if they do not care a mote about the well-being of its employees or the local inhabitants.
    Kapali Viswanathan, Brisbane, Australia. (Indian)

    The issue of "corruption" is not very well defined; personally, I broadly translate the word as "abuse of power". In this case, corruption is everywhere. Businessmen earning half a million pounds a year surely do not do enough work to merit that amount of money! The only demarcation line between Estrada, Dumas and the boss of Railtrack is the issue of legality. Morally, however, these cases are the same.
    Chris, Cambridge, UK


    It seems that a taboo has fallen

    Peillex, France
    As far as corruption in France is concerned, the sentence imposed on Mr Dumas is setting the ground for others. We've heard about the case of Roland Dumas unfolding for quite some time without really being able to predict when justice impose a sentence on him. It comes as a bit of blow. I think it does no harm to see the corruption issue being tackled in our country, although they are politicians for whom I have no more respect than Dumas, Mr Pasqua, Mr Tiberi on the right wing for instance. Even president Chirac is threatened. It seems that a taboo has fallen or rather is in the process of falling in France and that corruption is meant to be condemned.
    Peillex andré, NANTES, FRANCE

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    14 Mar 01 | South Asia
    Heads roll in India bribery scandal
    25 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
    What next for Estrada?
    06 Dec 00 | Asia-Pacific
    High cost of corruption in Philippines
    28 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
    Wahid cleared of corruption
    10 May 01 | Americas
    Brazil talks tough over corruption
    06 May 01 | Asia-Pacific
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    04 May 01 | Americas
    Cuba's anti-corruption ministry
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