The consequences of ignoring or tolerating corruption are described in depth in this volume; but, in summary, corruption is a clear threat to development, democracy, and international security. It distorts economic development and subverts political decision making, stunting growth and creating political instability. Corruption is closely linked to failing public institutions and failed policies, undermining the legitimacy of governments. It drains national finances, acting as a major disincentive to serious foreign investment, as well as destroying the work ethic of citizens. Corruption can have a profoundly negative impact on patriotism and commitment to the national goals and ideals. But, above all, it deepens poverty. These factors combined show why combating corruption is an issue for both Commonwealth and non-Commonwealth parliaments and parliamentarians alike.
The communique1 from the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Malta (November 2005) includes the following paragraph on corruption:
Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to root out, both at
national and international levels, systemic corruption, including extortion
and bribery, which undermine good governance, respect for human rights
and economic development. They acknowledged that comprehensive pre-
ventative measures, including institutionalising transparency, accountability
and good governance, combined with effective enforcement, are the most
effective means to combat corruption.
The majority of Commonwealth citizens live on incomes of approximately US$2 per day, and they especially deserve the best from the nation’s finances. Sadly, the latest Corruption Perceptions Index (2005) from Transparency International (TI) shows that corruption is still rampant in many Commonwealth countries—including Bangladesh, Cameroon, Guyana, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, and Sierra Leone. On the positive side, Australia, Barbados, Botswana, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, and the United Kingdom are ranked toward the top of the survey,2 but the bulk of the population of the Commonwealth resides in countries at the bottom of the list.
Of course, corruption is not an issue solely for the developing world—in many developed countries, it has taken a long time for their system of government and
1 The communique can be accessed at http://www.thecommonwealth.org/Templates/ Internal.asp?NodeID=147565.