Corruption is defined by the World Bank as “the abuse of public office for private gain”. Across both developed and developing countries, corruption leads to the concentration of power, wealth and resources in the hands of a political and economic elite – at the expense of poorer segments of society. As a result, corruption is a significant barrier to social and economic development.
According to research conducted by Transparency International, between 2014 and 2015 over fifty million people in the Middle East and North Africa were made to pay bribes in return for access to basic services, ranging from public healthcare, education and household utilities, to courts of justice and the police. Bribery was found to be particularly prevalent in Yemen, Egypt, Sudan and Morocco, restricting people’s access to vital public services and reinforcing the cycle of poverty – for it is poorer people who pay the highest proportion of their income in bribes.
Moreover, corrupt politicians notoriously divert funds away from essential public services, eroding the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their citizens. The people of Iraq and Libya, for example, have been deprived of desperately needed public funds due the chronic mismanagement and diversion of billions of dollars worth of oil revenue.
It’s been half a decade since the Arab Spring protests took aim at corrupt leaders and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East, yet corruption is still rife in the region. To combat this issue we must fight to promote greater participation, stricter accountability and clever transparency in government and politics.
Amy Simon 09/12/2016