Dr. Pakdee Pothisiri, Commissioner of Thailand’s National Anti-Corruption Commission, at an IOD event in Bangkok. (Photo: CIPE)
Corruption is one of the world’s most pervasive and vexing problems, costing the global economy hundreds of billions of dollars each year and stalling economic growth in many developing countries. Though most anti-corruption efforts focus on government-driven solutions in Thailand, the private sector, with CIPE’s assistance, has taken the lead in stamping out corrupt practices.
Writing in the Bangkok Post, CIPE Program Officer John Morrell describes how this unique program took shape, and why private companies have taken such an interest in what is usually regarded as a problem for the government.
(Photo: The Telegraph)
Elissa Myers is the president and CEO of Advice & Consensus. She is serving as a mentor for the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprise Association through CIPE’s Knowhow Mentorship program.
When I was offered the opportunity to serve as a mentor to the Georgian Small and Medium Enterprises Association through CIPE’s KnowHow program, I jumped at it. Earlier I spent a couple of months in the Republic of Georgia, working with two other emerging associations, and fell in love with the country, its history, its culture, its people, and its potential.
Strategically located between Asia and Europe, with Turkey, Armenia, and Azerbaijan to the south, the Caucasus Mountains to the north, and with glorious port towns bordering on the Black Sea to the west, Georgia represents an important opportunity for international investment. It’s a country poised to blossom as an important market partner, but to do so a stronger internal business community is needed. Under the leadership of Kakha Kokhreidze, President CEO of the GSMEA, that community is gaining strength.
The Arab Spring uprisings brought about unprecedented opportunity for change and reform to the Middle East and North Africa region. Since then, much has happened: new governments have come to power in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. However, with this change numerous challenges have confronted political transitions across the region as nations strive to build institutions, erect new political and legal frameworks, and lay the foundations for economic prosperity. In Yemen, security threats and humanitarian crises have frequently overshadowed the National Dialogue process, which, though marred by challenges such as sectarianism, security threats, and humanitarian concerns, shows great promise for helping to build a better Yemen.
The importance of economic reform was highlighted at an event sponsored by CIPE on January 25, 2013, entitled “Yemen’s Ongoing National Dialogue: Moving Forward” featuring Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, Former Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) & Former Minister of Human Rights for Yemen. Alsoswa emphasized that a successful democratic transition and security in Yemen will only be sustained if Yemeni citizens enjoy greater access to economic opportunities.
Participants at the January IOD training included senior officers from some of the largest local and multinational companies in Thailand.
In late January, more than 30 senior officers from 17 major Thai and multinational corporations attended an intensive anti-corruption training program led by the Thai Institute of Directors (IOD). This pilot two-day training course is the latest groundbreaking step in the Collective Action against Corruption campaign, now in its third year, being led by CIPE and IOD.
With technical and financial assistance from CIPE, IOD has assembled a still-expanding coalition of companies and business associations committed to fighting corruption in Thailand. To join this coalition, a company signs IOD’s Collective Action against Corruption Declaration which lays out tangible and specific steps that a company must take to proactively reduce corruption-related risks on the part of its employees, managers, and vendors. But signing this document is no mere photo-op, because to remain a member of this coalition, a company must submit to an external evaluation to verify whether or not it is actually doing what it has promised to do.
(Photo: Associated Press)
Veteran Ukrainian legislator Ksenia Lyapina is optimistic about the makeup of the newly elected parliament, the Verhovna Rada. Not only is she being joined in the 450-member body by six new deputies with an explicitly pro-entrepreneur agenda, but her party has some muscular new allies on key votes: both figuratively and literally. In the first two days of the new Rada’s proceedings in mid-December, pushing matches, brawls, and fistfights broke out on the floor. Lyapina liked what she saw among the 37 deputies in the Svoboda (“Freedom”) party.
“Now, we’ve got Svoboda with us. They’ve got some young men in good physical shape,” she said at a restaurant near the Rada on December 13, shortly after the closing of the second day of the proceedings. “Before, we were being beaten all the time,” added Lyapina, a refined woman who is one of Ukraine’s leading experts on issues of importance to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
The transition to democracy is a moment of great hope and opportunity for any country. Unfortunately, even when the movement for democracy was driven by the corruption of the old regime, the transition does not immediately solve the problem.
Writing in the Huffington Post, CIPE Executive Director John D. Sullivan argues that it is important to see corruption not just as a moral problem but as an institutional problem. And changing institutions is hard work that can take time.
“Successfully fighting corruption in transitions requires collective action of engaged citizens through associations, civil society groups, think tanks and other groups,” he writes. “Providing assistance to these organizations in the form of technical, management and even financial assistance can help foster a successful transition.”
While fighting corruption in countries in transition requires the engagement of broad sections of society, one area that is often overlooked is the private sector. This diverse group — including small businesses and entrepreneurs, large national companies, and the many enterprises that work informally — has an important role to play. Though some parts of the private sector may have little desire for reform, the less politically connected firms and small businesspeople are often among the main victims of corruption, making them important allies in this fight.
Read the whole article at the Huffington Post.
Pakistan is considered one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Transparency International’s recent survey ranks the country 134th on the Corruption Perception Index, with only 42 countries scoring worse. It is encouraging that Pakistanis now openly talk about corruption: according to a recent public opinion poll conducted by Gallup Pakistan asking about the most disliked thing in Pakistan, corruption topped in the list at 16 percent.
Various donor agencies have been working in Pakistan for many years on reducing the menace of corruption. Some major reform work has been done in the Federal Board of Revenue, the department that collects taxes on income, sales, and property. Under a grant from the British Government, e-filing of these taxes was introduced in 2005. That reduced the interaction between the tax officer and taxpayer and also said to have reduced the opportunity for corruption.
Having said this, many sources of potential corruption remain. For example, newspaper reports suggest that in the past four years, Pakistan’s five large public sector organizations lost Rs 393 billion ($4 billion USD).
Despite an increase in media reports on corruption, until recently the business community was reluctant to speak publicly about corruption that is rampant in other segments of Pakistani society. When CIPE started talking to the business community about its role in reducing corruption, the response of businesspeople was lukewarm. They were concerned that if they started advocating for reducing corruption, they might be penalized by the government agencies, and as a result might end up losing more money.
To help bring attention to the problem, the Young Entrepreneurs Forum (YEF), which is a part of Islamabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry, earlier this year launched a corruption perception survey, funded by a small grant from CIPE Pakistan.