Saturday, February 21, 2009

Bayani Fernando:How Can “Oriental” Democratic Forms of Government Address Corruption

PA 327: Comparative Development Administration, Second Semester 2008-2009
Dean Alex Brillantes Jr., PhD;Submitted by: Sofronio “Toti” Dulay, DPA Student

Based on a graph produced by the World Bank dated 2007 entitled “Systems of Government and Control of Corruption Index” published in Tackling Corruption, Transforming Lives, Accelerating Human Development in Asia and the Pacific by UNDP, there are basically 5 forms of government in Asia, namely; monarchy, one party, parliamentary, presidential and semi – presidential. These forms were further refined in a map in the same article identifying the forms of government of different countries in the Asia – Pacific Region. The political systems identified are parliamentary republics, presidential republics, semi – presidential republics, parliamentary constitutional monarchies in which the monarch does not personally exercise power, republics where the dominant role of a single party is enshrined in the constitution and finally, absolute monarchy. It was noted in the said map countries in the Asia – Pacific Region has different political system.
In the graph earlier stated, the forms of government of the Asia Pacific and other countries where plotted against the “Control of Corruption Index 2006” on the vertical axis. It was shown in the graph that the countries under the parliamentary system scored the highest in the control of corruption, with countries under one party system as the least able to control corruption. What is surprising is that countries with monarchy as their form of government scored higher than those under presidential and semi – presidential form of government.
In the article ”Democracy” by Hannah Beech, democracy was defined as “rule of the people” whereby citizens have the power to choose their leaders and live in a society characterized by freedom and justice. Among the five forms of governments, those countries that are in the one – party and monarchy are least democratic compared to those in the parliamentary, presidential and semi – presidential. Yet, in the World Bank graph stated above, the control on corruption is best on countries whose form of governments are in parliamentary and monarchy – a democratic and autocratic system respectively.
Based on above facts, we can conclude therefore that the control of corruption is not dependent on the forms of government or political system. Said otherwise, democracy is not a guarantee for lesser corruption.
Corruption, according to the UNDP article mentioned earlier, is commonly defined as the misused of entrusted power for private gain. The most common forms of corruption are bribery, embezzlement, extortion, abuse of discretion; favoritism, nepotism and clientelism; conduct creating or exploiting conflicting interest, and improper political contributions. There are six characteristics of corruption as a phenomenon, namely; gap between group and individual interest or between short – and long - term benefits; involvement of two or more parties since one can hardly corrupt with one’s own self; corruptions are done by consenting adults; its is done basically for benefit furtherance; the situations where corruption may happen are in those with existence of power and finally, there is a misuse of that power.
It is also noted in the article that women are less corrupt than men, generally speaking. Another thing, same article pointed out that larger countries seem to be more susceptible to corruption than smaller ones. There is an articulation that corruption can actually help economic performance by way of “greasing the wheels”, i.e. allowing businesses to get quicker decisions, cutting through red type and thus operate more efficiently. But the article debunks this articulation by saying that “for every case where corruption is suggested as a way of increasing efficiency, there are always cleaner courses of action that perform at least as well or better.”
A country therefore does not need to be democratic to eradicate corruption. But the article suggests that the more corrupt a country is, the lesser resources are being allocated to education, health and environment. If the ultimate goal of development is improving the lives of the people, then we can say that corruption is anti – development. Yet, corruption can exist in both democratic and autocratic societies.

The article of Beech earlier mentioned poised an alarmist stand on regarding democracy in Asia by saying that “most Asian nations now hold elections, yet true democracy still eludes the region.” The said article is not intended to correlate corruption with democracy, but purely about democracy as it evolves in Asia today. Basically, the article is saying that Asian democracies are showing undemocratic signs lately – mentioning the case of Thailand and even the fact that the LDP of Japan has been in power for so long making it somewhat harmful to democracy.
The connection of democracy and corruption was discussed by the UNDP article more; yet, the conclusion is that corruption can happen even in democratic and the so called “non – democratic” countries.
Therefore, it is basically fallacious or non – sequitur to say that we must be democratic first to eradicate corruption. Or absence of corruption will lead to democracy. Maybe, we can say that lesser corruption can lead to lessening of Sen’s “unfreedom”.
This leads me again to what Bayani Fernando is saying: do not blame the system for what happened to you or your government, rather than, given a system, what can you do to pursue the public good and improve the quality of lives of the people. (If I may add with my own words, life is too short to spend it always thinkering with the system of government like Cha Cha: go to the people..give them jobs and/or teach them how to put food on their table, otherwise, it is just like being “manangs “ in the churches who always pray to God but are not helping other people). It is basically management and decision making that matters. Management being planning, organizing, leading and controlling and decision - making being identifying the problem, generating alternatives that can solve the problem and selecting the best among the alternatives based on a set of criteria rooted on public good, good taste and excellence. Basically, Bayani Fernando knows all alone that corruption is not dependent on the system of government but on generic characteristics that are present in both democratic and undemocratic system of government. And this was confirmed by the two articles earlier that we are talking about.
Eventually, the whole thing about democracy, corruption, development – enhancement or worsening of these phenomena in a certain country - will go back to the framework that Professor Alex Brillantes has told in the class, that it has something to do with the interplay of generic concepts like structure, behavior and leadership. And the interplay of these concepts will be based on how one applies management and decision – making principles and techniques in the pursuit of public good and in improving the lives of the people, as Bayani Fernando would say it.

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