October 13, 2021
CORRUPTION KILLS: WHY AS CITIZENS WE MUST RECOGNISE AND PREVENT IT
Insight by Sara Manisera, FADA Collective
When one hears the word corruption, one should think of those people who received a defective heart valve that burst in their heart, because it was bought at a lower price, without checks and certifications to save the health company money or to make their friend, the valve importer, profit. Or we should think of Vito Scafidi, a 17-year-old young man who died when a ceiling collapsed in a classroom at school in 2008 as a result of safety checks that were never carried out but written on paper. Or think of the 27 children and their teacher who died on 31 October 2002 after an earthquake caused the newly renovated school in San Giuliano di Puglia to collapse. Judicial investigations and the trial established that the school's collapse was the result of human responsibility, i.e. poor materials and lack of testing. Or think of the 90 people killed on a flight from Moscow by two suicide bombers who had bribed two employees to evade boarding controls. Or we should think of the 6,000 tonnes of sludge and toxic waste that ended up in the sea, due to a series of alleged episodes of corruption of public officials. In short, we should start thinking that the price of corruption goes beyond the economic sphere. And that it can affect each of us.
According to Transparency International's 2020 Corruption Perceptions Index, Italy ranks 52nd in the world, on the same level as Saudi Arabia.
Corruption is not just an Italian phenomenon but is global and complex one because it goes together with tax evasion, money laundering and the absence of controls on global finance. This means billions of dollars hidden in tax havens. The Facti Panel (Financial Accountability Transparency and Integrity), the United Nations task force set up to combat financial crime in the international arena, has produced a report showing that around 500 billion dollars are lost every year due to the shifting of profits by multinationals: around seven trillion dollars of private wealth is hidden in tax havens and 10% of the world's GDP is held in offshore centres. In terms of money laundering, on the other hand, the figures exceed USD 1,600 billion a year, or 2.7% of global GDP. These phenomena significantly erode the revenues of individual states, which results both in a decrease in the services provided to citizens and in a decrease in trust in the institutions.
Corruption not only impoverishes a country's economy and family budgets, it also poses a devastating threat to the environment in which we live. In fact, illegal activities such as waste trafficking, land grabbing, deforestation or mining are increasingly accompanied by systematic corruption of public administrators, politicians and officials.
There are therefore many elements to consider when talking about corruption. As lawyer Dario Immordino writes in Il Sole 24ore, "empirical experience and the most accredited studies (World Economic Forum, the Bertelsmann Foundation, the Economist Intelligence, Unite and the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index) show that the proliferation of corruption drives away foreign investment more than high levels of taxation, it hinders the construction of productive settlements and infrastructures, pollutes the use of public resources, fuels crime and tax evasion, undermines the competitiveness of businesses, distorts competition, hinders meritocracy, multiplies litigation, decimates tax revenues and deprives citizens of essential services".
All this triggers a vicious circle that burdens development processes and undermines the economic environment: less investment, reduced employment, incomes and consumption, lower tax revenues, reduced quantity and quality of public services, higher bureaucratic costs and charges relating to the administration's frequent losses in disputes against citizens and businesses. More expenditure, less revenue and public resources to satisfy citizens' rights.
Estimating the corruption costs, however, is not easy because the costs impact on many spheres of society, from health to education, from justice to the environment. As Professor Alberto Vannucci, professor of political science at the University of Pisa and co-author of the book "Lo Zen e l'arte della lotta alla corruzione" (Zen and the art of anti-corruption) explains, "how are the people who died under a house, a school or a bridge built with shoddy materials because of corruption calculated? What is their price?" In the book, Vannucci together with Lucio Picci, Professor of Economic Policy at the University of Bologna and expert on corruption, address the issue in a rigorous and surprising way, proposing an approach that looks at the overall functioning of public affairs, education, the role of the media and the participation of citizens. In fact, a holistic approach to the issue is needed, which should also embrace public morals, ethics and customs, since it is a legal, social and cultural phenomenon so ancient that it was even a problem in Greek and Roman times.
Making a law is not enough, it is fundamental a cultural process on the citizens, especially women, as Vannucci writes, because it is scientifically proven that women on average have a lower propensity to corrupt and to be corrupted. An Italy where more women reach power with greater ease would therefore be a better Italy and probably also one with less corruption.