The Political Economy of Corruption

By Arvind K. Jain | Go to book overview
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Power, politics, and corruption

Arvind K. Jain

A concerted fight against corruption - in some cases defined synonymously with bribery - seems to have broken out around the globe in many spheres of social life where it rears its head. As this volume was being written in the summer of the year 2000, a senior Chinese official was actually sentenced to death for corruption. In the political sphere, the trial of former Indonesian President Suharto on charges of corruptly acquiring $210 million of state funds was about to begin. A Brazilian senator close to the President was impeached - an act unprecedented in the country's history - when it was revealed that he had requested bribes for a corruption-plagued construction project. In Mexico, public disgust with corrupt politicians had finally led the people to vote PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) out of office after seventy-one years of uninterrupted rule. Five British firms and fourteen others were being prosecuted in Lesotho courts for offering $3 million in bribes to officials, and the French oil-company Elf was being implicated in corruption scandals in Angola. Accusations of match-fixing and corruption were swirling around Japan's revered national sport, sumo. In Cambodia charges of corruption had led international agencies to consider cutting funds from the organization responsible for removal of millions of life-threatening land mines.

Public awareness of, and tolerance for, corruption has seen a sea change over the past decade as information and expectations have caused people to expect more from their leaders. While much of the focus of the current struggle to reduce corruption is on making bribes more difficult to pay and accept, "corruption" involves much more than bribes. Corruption, defined more comprehensively, involves inappropriate use of political power and reflects a failure of the political institutions within a society. Corruption seems to result from an imbalance between the processes of acquisition of positions of political power in a society, the rights associated with those positions of power, and the rights of citizens to control the use of that power. Power leads to temptation for misuse of that power. When such misuse is not disciplined by the institutions that represent the rights of the citizens, corruption can follow. Therefore, the study of the politics of corruption - the intent of this volume - is a study

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