Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Natural Disasters and Corruption !!

Could tornadoes, earthquakes and floods be responsible for corruption? The answer is unfortunately "Yes". Natural disasters are followed by the release of considerable amounts of funds by the federal government for the relief work, which generates activity amongst the corrupt administrators in the area. A study has revealed that each additional $100 per capita in FEMA(Federal Emergency Management Agency, USA) relief increases the average state's corruption by nearly 102 percent. It has been further found that certain regions in USA are more corrupt than others because more natural disasters strike them. More so in developing countries like India, Pakistan and Bangladesh which are amongst the most corrupt nations in the world. There, the administrators are in continuous hunt of a chance of money laundering either to deposit it in their swiss bank accounts or to buy big bungalows on the Palm Island, Dubai.

Floods are quite frequent in these countries and accordingly Central governments doles out money from various relief funds, so that the affected people can be re sheltered and protected from dying by starvation. But corrupted officials become active at the same time to stash as much cash as possible for themselves. And the contractors hired for the relief work like rebuilding houses, are their accomplice in this task. Administrators secretly invite bids from the contractors so as to judge, which contractor would give them the highest sum and the contract is awarded accordingly. Contractors put a higher price to built new houses in place of the destroyed ones, as they have to add a percentage to the cost which would go to the authorizing ministers. Thus, more the number of times, mother nature punishes a state, the greater it's administrators are likely to gain. This direct correlation can be proved by a number of instances. Gulf coast in USA, where natural strikes are frequent is more corrupt than the other states. Bihar, the most flood prone state of India is also the most corrupt state of the country.

How can we tackle this problem? How can funds and other resources be channelized such that they reach their rightful owners? Most would say, implement stricter laws against corruption and problem solved. But has that ever worked in the history? Don't forget our law-makers are the very same people accused of eating up poor people's money. And they know how to bend their "self-made" laws. I would suggest let media play a role here. Firstly, Central government should take charge if any such calamity occurs, so as to eliminate at least one level (the state-level) of the corruption. Secondary, the contracts offered should be made public with their price tag. Media can then analyse them with the help of experts and make any discrepancy ,if exists, public. That will not only bring transparency to the process but will also keep the petty officers under scrutiny of the public which elected them.

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