This Week: In fighting corruption, are we aiming for the moon?

It’s a basic premise that corruption is bad, and that all corruption should be rooted out and left to fry on the burner. It’s a pretty easy bandwagon to get on. David Cameron joined in the chorus when he called for “greater transparency over the ownership of companies and the use of natural resources to stop corrupt officials, oligarchs and money launderers from plundering the wealth of countries and funneling money around with impunity.”  He isn’t the only one calling for this type of increased transparency, and we’re definitely on the transparency bandwagon as well.

However, Tim Kelsall suggests an element of corruption that is quite uncomfortable – certain types of corruption are more functional than others. There are countries that have still been able to fight poverty with highly corrupt governments, and he suggests a “better” kind of corruption that can still allow for development. Two scenarios are provided on The Campaign for Boring Development blog to show the difference between “worse” and “better” types of corruption.

Courtesy image: Global Integrity.

Really, we all want a scenario three, where there is no corruption and businesses and development are able to grow and thrive without kickbacks and under the table sleight of hand. But it does provoke some deep thought. The old adage, “Shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars” doesn’t leave space for where among the stars you’ll land. Perhaps there are better stars to land on while in pursuit of the moon.

If we can’t completely root out corruption now, are there “better” forms of corruption that can be worked with until it can all be cut out? What would that even mean for organizations working with corrupt governments and against corruption?

While I have no answers, it’s an interesting question to ask.

For those who are working in pursuit of governments sans corruption and pro good governance, Alan Hudson of Global Integrity suggests a series of questions when trying to measure aspects of governance. The questions urge one to think beyond cookie-cutter ideas of what good governance entails and think more specifically on what you are interested in knowing and how the data will be put to use.

Taryn Davis is an Associate at Development Gateway. Email her your tips to get a shout-out in next week's post.

Tags: corruptiongovernancetransparencybusiness