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Corruption and Econmy

  • Date Submitted: 12/14/2012 10:36 PM
  • Flesch-Kincaid Score: 34.8 
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THE NEWS September 16, 2012

The economics of corruption
By Dr Ishrat Husain
The recent tragedy in which 258 innocent persons lost their lives in a fire that gutted a garment factory in Karachi has once again generated a controversy in the media about the widespread collusion and corruption prevalent in the departments dealing with safety, occupational hazards, building control, labour inspection and others. Road-worthiness certificates are issued to defective motor vehicles, approvals for buildings are given for structures without fire protection, CNG tankers ply on the roads without following safety regulations, electricity connections are granted without adequate safeguards, adulterated foodstuff and drugs are sold liberally without let or hindrance. The usual blame game will once again obscure the root cause that underpins this tragedy and many other past and future incidents.

Why do these infractions take place? There are many factors but economic factors play a major role. In our bureaucratic structure inherited from the British, an asymmetry exists between the enormous discretionary powers enjoyed by the petty bureaucracy and their training, educational backgrounds, competence and remuneration. Patwaris, SHOs, sub-registrars, labour inspectors, court readers, SDOs, drug inspectors, building control officials, clerks in DC offices, income tax, inspectors, customs appraisers are the persons who interact with the common citizens on a day to day basis. On paper, the legal and formal powers are vested in their officers who are supposed to supervise and direct these officials but in actual practice the informal and effective power resides in these lower echelons. They can invoke their powers to make individuals paupers or prosperous depending on the nature of the deal.

The irony is that all accountability exercises so far, including purging and screenings under marital law regimes or convictions under the NAB ordinance have been focused on the officer...

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