Sunday, December 10, 2006

The costs of Anti-corruption

Today’s NYT has an article about Iraq having the money to begin rebuilding more comprehensively (the oil money is there, though they could use better storage facilities, etc.), but:

[B]ureaucrats are so fearful and confused by anticorruption measures put in place by the American and Iraqi governments that they are afraid to sign off on contracts. […] Iraqis who have seen their colleagues arrested and jailed in anticorruption sweeps are reluctant to put their own name on a contract.

Here’s an Iraqi’s end of a business call:

Hello, mister overseer, a thousand blessings on you and your family. I’m sorry, no, I don’t want to curry favor, let me begin again. Hello, mister overseer, kiss my dog’s behind. Is that better? Let me try again. Hello, mister overseer, how are you? Fine, good. W
ell, mister overseer, I have a problem. I have someone who wants to begin a job for me and I have a contract written for him and his services. This is good, yes?
How do I know for sure this is not a corrupt transaction? He is doing something for me and I promise to pay him money. Am I not corrupting his soul by implying that people can't cooperate as peers within a social unit? That they need money as a mediator? Is not this telephone call costing more than the electricity that runs it because of this same system of monetary corruption?

You say no. Well, sir, let me remind you that you are probably being paid to say no.
Then perhaps I don't understand corruption as well as you.
Okay, what will it take for you to guarantee that the contract my friend and I have agreed on is not corrupt?
Oh, that much, eh?

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