(Photo: Kyiv Post)
When protesters first took to the streets in Ukraine’s largest cities in 2013, economic concerns were at the top of the agenda. As the geopolitical situation in eastern Ukraine has heated up, economic prospects in the contested regions of the country have only gotten worse. Yet average Ukrainians are still working for a more prosperous and democratic future.
Since the Maidan protests, the business climate in the Donbass, the easternmost, coal-mining region of the country, has taken a turn for the worse. Amid the turmoil, local businesses – in particular small and medium-sized firms – have suffered. Many have been shaken down for so-called “donations,” and in some cases have been looted and ransacked.
A recent article in the local press has documented fines, bribery, and other abuses committed against local businesses by police departments and government officials. Many people have even left the region, heading either for Western Ukraine or even Russia. The owners of small businesses have left their homes and their enterprises behind. They are unsure when they can return, or whether they will find their businesses in the same condition.
As one CIPE partner in the Donbass noted, “Public sector bribes have grown by several times what they were prior to the strife, and not one Grivna [the Ukrainian currency] is going to the budget.” He confirmed that many business owners and heads of banks in the region are being forced to leave their businesses. “Because of roadblocks and military activities, there are just no opportunities to run a business,” he laments.
The pro-European, Kiev-based protests that led to the ouster of former President Viktor Yanukovich made Ukraine a hot topic in international news. Yet in many ways, the situation that set international media ablaze in early February is really a much older story.
Sixteen teams made it through the group stage in the 2014 World Cup to the knockout round and are fighting towards international bragging rights for the next four years. What if, instead of scoring goals to advance, each country won its match-up based on who has the least amount of corruption?
Each year, Transparency International releases its Corruption Perception Index: a country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of corruption on a scale of 0-100, where 0 means that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and 100 means that it is perceived as very clean. Based on the Corruption Perception Index, check out which country would come out on top:
Anna Dawson is a Communications Coordinator at CIPE.
“I see a great need of vendor supply chain training providers to run the show effectively. If we want growth, train the relevant person first” — Ayesha Muharram, Chief Internal Auditor and Country Compliance Officer, Glaxo Smith Kline.
Lately it has become a requirement among multinational companies to comply with international anti-corruption laws such as U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), U.K. Bribery Act, Canadian Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act, Brazilian Clean Companies Act. Under these laws, multinational companies need to take appropriate actions for ensuring clean business — including making sure that all of their suppliers, vendors, and subsidiaries around the world are following the rules.
To help local companies and multinationals working in Pakistan deal with this challenge, CIPE Pakistan initiated a discussion on issues related to supply chain compliance in multinational companies. In collaboration with the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce & Industry, CIPE conducted a first focus group meeting of the Value Chain-Unethical Practices project. This first meeting was used to conduct a gap analysis, focusing the capacity building needs and the given standards in Pakistan.
Last week Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba filed paperwork with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for an initial public offering (IPO). As one of the largest companies in the world’s second largest economy, Alibaba represents an enormous opportunity for investors. They are expected to raise between $15 and $20 billion, making this IPO potentially bigger than Facebook’s.
While Alibaba already handles more sales volume than eBay and Amazon combined, there is added room for growth as internet penetration in China is only around 45 percent. Online shopping is projected to increase at a rate of 27 percent per year as the still-poor country grows richer and more connected.
Regardless of the perceived opportunities, foreign investors are not entirely convinced that Alibaba will be a good buy. The attitude toward Chinese companies in general is one of skepticism and uncertainty – perpetuated most recently by concerns about the transparency in auditing practices. Alibaba’s complex network of businesses and a lack of details surrounding partnerships with domestic logistics companies also raise some questions for potential investors.
In all the buzz surrounding Alibaba’a IPO, however, there is a missing element that could be cause for additional concern. By selling shares in the U.S., Alibaba opens itself to more exposure to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a piece of legislation that makes it illegal for companies to bribe officials of foreign governments. A number of multinational companies from around the world have already been ensnared in FCPA investigations as a result of corruption in China and the idea that Alibaba has grown within a market rife with corrupt acts could be cause for increased suspicion. Compounding this risk is the fact that the company has been the subject of investigations by domestic authorities in the past.
2012-2013 1st Place Winner, Democratic Governance category. By Seyedbehzad Ghafarizadeh (Iran/Canada).
Can you create a picture that’s worth a thousand words?
Cartoons have an unparalleled ability to communicate universal ideas across cultures and language barriers. Cartoonists have long played a key role in the development of democracy — from the American and French revolutions through to defending media freedom and critiquing corruption in countries like Ecuador today.
CIPE’s Editorial Cartoon Competition is open to amateur and professional cartoonists of all ages from any country. First place winners in each category are eligible for a cash prize of $1,000.
Do you have something to say about Democracy, Transparency, or Corruption? Draw attention — enter your cartoons before June 2, 2014!
Jon Custer is the Social Media / Communications Coordinator at CIPE.
Without a strong compliance program, many smaller Russian firms could be locked out of lucrative contracts with big multinationals.
By Henry Nelson
In countries with weak rule of law, anti-corruption efforts suffer from a collective action problem: because bribery and corruption are endemic and occur frequently, individual small business owners hesitate to reform because they fear that doing so will reduce their competitiveness.
If a small or medium-sized enterpise (SME) begins to eschew bribery, it might be incapable of securing contracts that require paying a bribe, for example. The threat of short-term loss of business is serious for SMEs and can deter companies from pursuing anti-corruption compliance.
Furthermore, the collective action problem effects the general business environment. Without a strong, coordinated voice on the importance of compliance, corruption continues to be seen as “business as usual” and the consensus continues to be that bribery is a necessary component of conducting business.
This collective action problem is pervasive and continues to pose issues for CIPE and its many global partners. It is difficult to implement reforms when SMEs fear that the reforms will hurt their business.
Earlier this month, CIPE’s Washington office hosted a delegation of CIPE Russia officers and regional CIPE partners for a discussion on value-chain anti-corruption efforts in Russia. The discussion yielded plenty of interesting information on CIPE Russia’s plan to work with regional Russian chambers of commerce in order to educate local SMEs about international anti-corruption laws like the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and UK Bribery Act.
This article originally appeared on the Thomson Reuters TrustLaw Governance blog.
Thailand lifted its state of emergency, and the February 2 elections have been annulled. Encouragingly, the leaders of the government and the opposition are signaling – albeit tentatively and obliquely – a willingness to negotiate an end to the country’s ongoing political crisis. But even if Thailand can extricate itself from its latest political quagmire, the next crisis is probably not far off if the underlying problems are not addressed.
More than any other issue, corruption has served to delegitimize successive governments in the eyes of competing segments of Thai society. In 2006, the military ousted an elected government and in 2008, the Supreme Court disbanded an elected government; in both cases, the stated justification was corruption. Likewise, allegations of corruption are among the paramount drivers of the anti-government protests taking place in Bangkok today, just as they were in the color-coordinated protests of recent years.
And this frustration with corruption is not limited to corruption in electoral processes or campaign fraud. Corruption is a daily phenomenon for many citizens and businesses, and people are fed up with it.