Corruption’s cost in the Arab world

Posted on October 29, 2007


Christian Science Monitor,

October 29, 2007 edition –

By John K. Cooley


Do you need a local driver’s license in, say, Lebanon, Egypt, or Cameroon? Well, weeks of paperwork and delays may be avoided if you resort to the Mideastern practice of slipping baksheesh – a traditional term for a bribe – to the right official.  Want to park your car on a street in traffic-choked Cairo? Or in a safe place in bomb-threatened Kabul? The friendly cop is likely to look the other way – for a banknote or two.

Petty corruption, virtually universal in much of the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and parts of Latin America, is only the iceberg’s tip. Starting a business or angling for a government contract can call for sometimes astronomical under-the-table outlays in cash or kind. “Corruption and lack of transparency [in business and government deals] still constitute a very important challenge for the development of the [Mideast] region,” reports Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based anticorruption organization, in its latest annual report.

Another private research group, Enterprise Surveys, found that Bangladesh leads in this category. Nearly 86 percent of firms working there needed to present tax inspectors with “gifts.” [more]

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John K. Cooley, a former Monitor correspondent, covered the Middle East and North Africa for more than 40 years. His forthcoming book is “Currency Wars.”