I was asked to add my few Leones worth of ideas to the above. I usually avoid getting into the debate for several reasons. First, some reportedly corrupt societies in recent history have displayed remarkable growth at early periods – China after Tianaman, Indonesia twenty years ago, and Salone between 2010 and 2013. The drivers of the high growth may vary but somehow WHEN efficiency in the public service improves, corruption tends to diminish where the leadership is strong. The leadership under Mobutu was weak and that society never reached the point of a developmental state. Not surprisingly it collapsed.
Second, some countries known for absence or limited corruption have had dismal growth periods – I know for a fact the case of Eritrea immediately after its independence.
Third, corruption is ethically bad for any society and must be attacked relentlessly irrespective of its effects on poverty. Corruption destroys the fabric of a stable society, by distributing the national cake grossly unequally, and if left unchecked eventually leads to conflict and or anarchy – Libya is a case in point. Increased poverty is only one of its victims and not always so.
Fourthly even accepting that corruption contributes to the worsening of poverty in certain societies, there are other factors more significant for reducing poverty than corruption. These include appropriate economic and social policies e.g. the SAPs of the 80s were known to have exacerbated poverty; and for me, above all, good leadership is the key ingredient for alleviating poverty.
Turning to the argument about who bears greater responsibility for corruption, I rally behind the group that blames ourselves more than others. As my late mother always said, if ose noh sell u treet noh go buy U! If you prefer Shakespeare, “The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves that we are underlings”.
I will accept the argument that foreigners should sometimes bear greater responsibility for our poverty. But not necessarily through corrupt practices. Some do so openly, using the asymmetrical power relationship they enjoy and the power of the purse to “impose” (they feign righteous indignation at the use of the word because they make sure the government officially requests) misguided policies. I have seen this happen first hand in so many fragile countries in Africa, Sierra Leone not excluded.
On another note, unless a problem or ailment is accurately diagnosed, the solution or medication provided will work only by chance. If the diagnosis is wrong the medication is likely to be wrong. If we see the problem of corruption as primarily a foreign affair the solutions offered will not resolve the problem. Worse it gives the internal perpetrators the temerity to join in making loud noises about corruption by foreign parties.
Conclusion, first, we must condemn corruption always, irrespective of its links with poverty. Who bears greater responsibility? My view is ourselves. Remember when one finger points outwards, the rest in your hand are pointing inwards.
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