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10 things about Corruption

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02 October 2013

Amanda Jackson, Head of Campaigns and Policy for Micah Challenge writes about 10 things she has learnt about corruption:

1. Corruption is BIG. It is estimated that around US$21trillion is currently hidden by individuals in tax havens (Tax Justice Network 2012). That’s $21,000,000,000,000.

If this money made a very modest return of 3% and that 3% was taxed at 30%, the extra tax revenue available to governments would amount to $190 billion, roughly double the amount OECD countries spend on all overseas development assistance. 

2. Corruption robs poor nations of much needed tax revenue. Every year, developing countries lose US$1 trillion from illicit financial flows. If they could get tax income from this lost money, they would not need to be dependent on aid and loans from rich nations.

3. Tax dodging may conjure images of shady lawyers in white suits  lounging in a steamy office, but tax evasion schemes are actually designed and operated by the world’s largest private banks,  and respected law and accountancy firms in places like London and Geneva. And in many cases the tax breaks are encouraged by governments keen to attract corporations to their shores. The State of Delaware is home to more than 900,000 shell corporations and thousands of trusts. None of them are required to register their beneficial owners with tax or law enforcement authorities (Global Alliance of tax Justice)

4. Corruption is a painful everyday experience for many millions of poor people, robbing not just their money but also their dignity. My friend Seraphin in Benin describes it this way: “We have a lot of kinds of corruption in Benin. If you want to have a job, you give money; bus drivers give money to the police even if they have all their papers; if the government want to give you a job to do, like building, you get asked for money; if you want a bag of cement from the store you pay extra if you don’t want to wait; if you are in retirement, you give money to get your papers and pension. And so and so on.”

5. Christians think that they are more honest than other people but churches in many places have poor accountability and preach a gospel that sees wealth as a reward from God. I have heard numerous stories of mission groups that engage in bribery; Christian businesses that ignore corrupt practices because they might lose contracts; and individuals who engage in aggressive tax avoidance because they don’t trust governments to spend their money wisely.

6. Corruption links me to desperate situations of injustice. My mobile phone contains coltan, a mineral that is a superb conductor. A major producer of coltan is DRC, a nation that has endured over a generation of conflict. Coltan helps to fund the various militia groups that use violence to instill fear in local people. Girls and women are raped and boys are forced into the mines. So my demand for a fast, light mobile or tablet drives the corrupt coltan trade which causes terrible human suffering.

7. There is hope. Research shows that businesses that take part in corruption do not have a material profit advantage over firms that take a stand against bribery or other unethical practices. Corruption enables multinationals to grow more aggressively in corrupt markets, but bribes represent a material increased cost of business, thus cancelling out the advantages. The argument that corruption is “just the way things work” is not valid and adds weight to the desire of the G20 nations to tackle the pervasive use of corrupt practices in multinationals.

8. EXPOSED is a campaign aiming to shine a light on the dark and secret world of corruption.

We can all do 3 things:

1. Make a personal commitment to live with integrity

2. Take part in a global Vigil in the week October 14-20 to proclaim God’s standards and call for change in our communities and nation. You'll be joining thousands of others around the world which will be taking place at some point during that week.

3. Sign the Global Call - a petition asking leaders of the world’s major economies to take action against murky deals and tax evasion. You can do it online or download a hard copy to use at church or Bible study.

9. The Bible actually has quite a lot to say about corruption. Unjust scales are condemned because the rich exploit the poor (Proverbs 11:1); Nathan condemns David for corruptly using his power to remove Bathsheba’s husband (2 Samuel 12); and Eli’s wicked sons abuse their power, treating God with contempt (1 Samuel 2) causing God to raise up Samuel.

Churches need to address corruption and be examples of integrity today more than ever. We cannot mistake God’s promise of blessing for permission to accumulate personal wealth whatever the cost. The prophets and Jesus’ own brother, James spoke out against such greed and selfishness (see James Chapter 2).

10. People everywhere condemn corruption and want something to be done, but can’t quite see a solution. But what if Christians, all 2 billion of us, actually stood up and said No. God set us up to be a force for transformation in all areas of life.

So if you haven’t signed the EXPOSED Global Call, please do it now

And get 5 more people to sign the call too!

For more information from Amanda advocates see here.