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Why are we corrupt?

 by Dr. Farrukh Saleem

The eleventh president of the Islami Jamhooria Pakistan is accused of having accumulated billions of dollars beyond his known sources of income. Down the food chain, our milkmen routinely adulterate their supplies with detergents, urea, boric acid, starch, hypochlorite and salts.

Transparency International (Pakistan) claims that “49 percent of Pakistanis have paid a bribe to an official in the government or private sector during the last twelve months.” More recently, Transparency released a survey that has Land Revenue as the most corrupt department followed by police, taxation, judiciary and the power sector (police being the second most corrupt and taxation the third most corrupt). The military and the education sectors came in as the least corrupt (ninth and tenth). Why do we have a culture of corruption? Why is it that our leaders behave in a manner that they do? Why is it that our milkmen behave in a manner that they do? Why is it that milkmen – or leaders – in Denmark, New Zealand, Finland, Sweden and Canada behave differently?

Ethonomics is a hybrid field of inquiry that studies the ‘prioritisation of values within a particular value system’. Ronald Inglehart, of the University of Michigan, political scientist par excellence, whose work has been translated into German, Italian, Spanish, French, Swedish, Brazilian Portuguese, Russian, Polish, Croatian, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Persian and Urdu, developed the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map. And, that cultural map tries to explain why – and how – values differ from one country to another and from one generation to another.

The Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map has grouped Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Angola, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Nigeria as ‘survival communities’ (all these countries are rated ‘very corrupt’ in the Corruption Perception Index). Citizens of survival communities lack food, shelter and clothing and thus share a value system that is based on ‘survival values’. Survival communities are where religion is important, deference to authority is indoctrinated and rejection of divorce is prevalent with high levels of national pride and a severe lack of trust between and among citizens. At the other end of the spectrum are prosperous or welfare communities where the provision of food, shelter and clothing is available to most. This group includes countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and Canada (all these countries are rated as the ‘least corrupt’ in the Corruption Perception Index). Citizens of this group take their physical and economic survival for granted and thus share a value system that is based on ‘self-expression values’. In this group religion is not important, there is a high degree of tolerance of diversity, concern for environmental protection and participation in decision making.

In Pakistan, we all talk about corruption and at the same time indulge in it. Is it because our survival values trump values of self-expression? After all, Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ also has food, water, security of body and employment at the very base of the pyramid with morality, creativity and acceptance of facts coming much, much later.

Ronald Inglehart also studied intergenerational variance of values in countries like Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and Canada concluding that their value system underwent drastic changes as they evolved from an industrial society to a post-materialist one.

Pakistani ‘rule of law’ advocates insist that the lack of rule of law breeds corruption but law-enforcers cannot be imported from Sweden, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Finland and Canada. Our law-enforcers, by definition, also hold survival values (our judiciary being rated at 3.6 on a scale of 1 being ‘not corrupt’ and 5 being ‘extremely corrupt’). Professors Sandholtz and Taagepera of the University of California are convinced that “cultural factors explain 75 percent of the variation in the Perceived Corruption Index” and that “a strong survival orientation contributes to higher levels of corruption.” To be certain, we Pakistanis are still a survival oriented society whereby the priority is guaranteeing survival rather than morality (read: corruption).

Is this why 50,656 Pakistanis voted for Jamshed Dasti? Perhaps, his voters seek survival rather than morality.

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Vision 21 is Pakistan based non-profit, non- party Socio-Political organisation. We work through research and advocacy for developing and improving Human Capital, by focusing on Poverty and Misery Alleviation, Rights Awareness, Human Dignity, Women empowerment and Justice as a right and obligation. We act to promote and actively seek Human well-being and happiness by working side by side with the deprived and have-nots.

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