According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Afghans paid $2.5 billion in bribes over the past twelve months, or the equivalent of almost one quarter of the legitimate GDP.
“It’s time to drain the swamp of corruption in Afghanistan, to stop money and trust disappearing down a big black hole,” Antonio Maria Costa head of the UN Office said. “Corruption is contributing to drug-trafficking and terrorism.”
The UNODC said its report, Corruption in Afghanistan, was based on interviews with 7,600 people in 12 provincial capitals and more than 1,600 villages around Afghanistan.
More than half the population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official last year, the report stated.
Bribes were most often paid to police, judges and politicians but members of international organizations and NGOs were also seen as corrupt, a survey commissioned by the BBC and other broadcasters found.
More than half the population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official last year, the report adds.
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Observers are unanimous in reporting that corruption is a major problem in Afghanistan. For the war on militant extremists to succeed, we are told, trust in the government must be established.
No doubt this is true if we are thinking of corruption in our terms. But if half the population is guilty of it, and if the equivalent of almost one quarter of the legitimate GDP is spent on it, is it not conceivable that the concept of corruption has a different meaning in a society so different from ours? If half the population of the country sees nothing wrong in making payments to police, judges and politicians and to international organizations – and they accept the payments – then it is part of the culture.
To some extent this may be a question of words. One wonders what the words were in the polls conducted by the UN and the BBC. If Afghans were to conduct polls on the subject in Toronto, is it not possible that they might translate “expense account” into “bribery account”? Might they not learn from the language used by the accountants of the corporations who paid millions to Karlheinz Schreiber that “promotion” means “corruption”?