Many people in Pakistan believe that much of the development and a significant portion of the operations allocations are lost due to bribery and other related illegal and unethical activities. The extreme poverty and lack of infrastructure and basic services in the rural areas of Sindh and Balochistan are in part fuelled by bribery, influence peddling, extortion, and abuse of power. The people and international donors must rise to the occasion and start pressurising Islamabad to curtail corruption and improve governance. Failure to do so in a timely manner will continue to frustrate the poor people and make them weary of the current democratic system and drive them to extremism.
It is a widely held view that the practice of bribery in Pakistan is widespread, systematic, and that it is entrenched at all levels of government. A World Bank report containing an assessment of the Pakistans Infrastructure Capacity (PICA) states that 15 percent of the countrys development budget for 2007-08 was lost in the procurement process alone due to corruption. This does not include subsequent costs of corruption in the implementation and maintenance stages of projects. Important business publications such as World Economic Forums Global Competitiveness Report (2007-08) says that corruption is the third greatest problem for companies doing business in Pakistan. The report lists the first two problems as government bureaucracy and poor infrastructure. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) says that the World Bank and the Auditor General of Pakistan have complained about governance problems in recruitment, site selection, absenteeism and bribery. This has resulted in the cancellation or suspension of some of the World Banks projects such as the Balochistan Primary Education Project. Also, certain other loans were withheld after irregularities were uncovered.
Corruption is bound to flourish in a culture that encourages display of affluence without any regard as to how the wealth has been obtained. Lack of accountability plays a crucial role in the promotion of bribery and resistance to any form of reform. To fully respond to the question as to which sectors are most affected by corruption, both quantitative and qualitative, it is worth bearing in mind that some of the reasons for which particular sectors are highlighted more often than others are due not only to objective merits, but also to the facts that:
p There is more research and survey work done in those areas, and;
p Public perception and awareness seem to be more vocal as regards those areas.
Thus, the exercise of highlighting some of the sectors should be read with the knowledge that corruption in Pakistan seems pervasive across most sectors. With that in mind, it is safe to say that expert sources indicate that the sectors among those most affected by it are the police and law enforcement, judiciary and legal profession, power sector, tax and customs, health and education, and land administration
In addition, public procurement seems to be a major concern across most sectors
These sectors seem to be affected by chains of:
p Petty corruption to access public services or to bypass the law (through the direct interaction of citizens with the respective authorities and bribe-paying).
p Middle and grand corruption (in public contracting and procurement as well as direct misappropriation of public funds by senior officials).
p Political patronage, conflicts of interest, influence peddling and other forms of corrupt behaviour are commonplace across the sectors.
The following are some examples of the damage that is caused by corruption: Defective, dangerous and inadequate infrastructure - poor and incomplete roads, badly constructed college buildings, fewer class rooms in schools that are liable to collapse with the first monsoon rains, railway tracks, hospital facilities, water projects, bridges or housing units. Abysmal education standards result when illiterate persons are recruited as school teachers for political reasons. Many schools all over the country remain without teachers or fewer teachers to effectively educate students. More so, it is futile to talk about technical and engineering schools and the standards they have established. After three years of studies, neither the teacher nor his student knows the use of a drill machine.
Corrupt practices contribute to the inadequate number of beds in hospitals, no medicines for patients, as these are paid for but not procured or disposed of after their delivery at the hospital store. And, of course, there is no fuel in vehicles meant for transporting patients to hospitals. Most experts think that corruption is one of the most difficult problems in Pakistans society today. Its impact on the countrys towns and villages is extremely profound and poses a long-term threat to its culture, economics, and general well being of the people and the provinces where they reside. The future of Pakistan and alleviation of poverty in rural areas of Pakistan is highly dependent on successful completion of all development projects. This success is threatened by the evil of greasing the palm that must be stopped urgently before it is too late. The religious extremism, deteriorating economic conditions, and worsening living conditions are unnerving the people of rural Sindh and Balochistan, who until now have refused to fall in the trap of extremism. It is imperative that all stakeholders, including political parties, government officials, civil society organisations, private companies, donor agencies and common people, recognise the carnage that current levels of corruption can do to the heartlands of Pakistan. They must form a grand coalition to stop the menace before it is too late.
The writer is a retired secretary of the Government of Pakistan. He is a member of the former Civil Service of Pakistan.