An article from 2018 that still holds water in 2021

Graft lessons we can learn from the Orient

It’s 2018 and corruption in Kenya still remains as one of the highly debated topics by citizens. The past several months brought to light scandals that have bewildered most of us and they have left us wondering when the camel’s back will finally break. The big question, of course, remains to be how long this country will continue holding these discussions without any conceivable and significant positive outcome for Wanjiku and a massive turn around in the way we handle our public coffers.

South East Asia

Singapore has in the past, and on many occasions, been used in contrast with our country’s economy. Since its independence, Singapore has gradually grown to a highly developed market economy, which is highly dependent on export trade. Between the years 1965 and 1995, it’s estimated that the country’s economy was able to achieve an annual growth rate of 6% p.a. This was viewed as a great contributor to the transformation and the improvement of her people’s standards of living. During the immediate post-independence period for both countries, Kenya’s GDP was ranked to be higher than that of Singapore. To be exact, if I may, Kenya’s GDP in 1963 was $ 926.6 slightly higher that of Singapore which was $ 917.2 million (World Bank). However, as Singapore has continually sought to improve its systems, our country has had its fair share of economic sabotage the greatest of them all being the ugly face of corruption. Most of our country’s resources are wasted and stolen by white collar thieves and nothing substantial has been done to curb this. Of course, what this means is, the longer we continue to cultivate a culture of failing to punish the corrupt, the deeper we will continue to descend into even more corruption. This has been evident with the dangerous and exponential increase in the volumes of public funds being stolen. In effect, if a corruption scandal in current times does not have the word billion tied to it, it will not get the attention it deserves.

Singapore is generally perceived to be among the least corrupt countries with a Corruption Perception Index (CPI) rank of 6 out of 180 countries (Transparency International, 2017). What this means is that funds allocated in the government’s budget towards education, infrastructure, health and general development encounter minimal wastage by the people held accountable for these funds. The country’s finance docket has gone ahead and implemented a dedicated budget website (www.singaporebudget.gov.sg) which clearly gives information about the budgeting processes and gives the citizens an opportunity to give their views and suggestions. To me this is a great step towards transparency and inclusivity. It is also easier and more enticing for investors to set up businesses in Singapore. According to the Global competitiveness report (2014–2015) by the World Economic Forum, surveys of business executives taken in Singapore showed that they recounted having no glitches doing business in the country. On the other hand, Transparency International ranked Kenya as having a Corruption Perception Index of 145 out of 180 countries in 2017. This translates to Kenya being perceived as being amongst the most corrupt countries in the World, a big shame to our beautiful country. Kenya has on occasion been known to be a nightmare for some foreign investors willing to set camp here. This not only denies the country potential revenue streams, but also robs our unemployed youth viable opportunities to get employed and learn new skills. Yet, the unemployment rate among the youth in our country remains to be one of the highest in the World. It cannot be said that Singapore has absolutely no corruption incidences but instead cases of corruption in the country have subsequently led to the incarceration of the offenders. To mention but a few, the former Singapore Land Authority (SLA) deputy director and his counterpart SLA manager were both found guilty of money laundering and sentenced to 22 and 15 years in jail respectively in 2011. The country has also seen several other high ranking government officials and civil servants served jail terms due to their roles in corruption cases.

East Asia

Corruption is considered as a serious problem in South Korea. Transparency International in 2016 ranked the country as having a CPI rank of 52 out of 176 countries which is still a far much better ranking than Kenya. The country has, nevertheless, made notable efforts in fighting corruption. In 2015, a former prime minister in South Korea resigned after allegations that he was involved in corruption were brought against him barely two months after assuming office. In April this year, the former president of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, was sentenced to 24 years in prison after being found guilty of multiple criminal charges among them bribery and abuse of power when she was in office. Park Geun-hye rose to power in 2013 and became the first female president in South Korea, an achievement of the century by itself. Geun-hye was widely celebrated during her tenure, even coming in 11th place on the Forbes’s list of the World’s most powerful women in 2013. Besides, she was the most powerful woman in Asia in 2014. The same year would also see her make it to the list of the most powerful people in the World coming into position 46. It was during her tenure, however, that Park was accused of abuse of office that brought about her subsequent impeachment which was upheld by the Constitutional Court. She was removed from office in March 2017. On 6th April 2018, Park was finally served her sentence after a trial that lasted 10 months. She is the daughter of Park Chung-hee, a former South Korea president and dictator who was assassinated while in office in 1979.

Back at home

Kenya, nonetheless, in its many outrageous corruption cases is yet to show any fundamental action taken towards dealing with adversely mentioned personalities and having them brought to book. As evidenced in both countries, it is not impossible to deal with this vicious cycle. Kenyans placed in positions as accounting officers of public funds continue to misappropriate billions of shillings, but instead of swift action being taken against them, they are reshuffled to other positions within the government or even worse we elect them to even higher caliber positions. For how long will we allow the livelihoods of Kenyans and that of future generations to continue being robbed by a minority few? How do we expect to see the end of corruption in a country where we continue to reward wrong doing?

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