Ans 1: Corruption has become increasingly prevalent in recent times. It is not restricted to the third world, developing nations. While Western nations appear to have cleaned up their act on their home turf, they are still paying bribes in developing nations. Several corruption scandals have erupted, such as the U.S. conglomerate Halliburton paying bribes in Nigeria. Simultaneously, the oil-for-food program alleged payment of huge bribes by 2400 companies around the world. (Williamson, 2006). British aerospace manufacturer BAE Systems was alleged to have paid bribes to the Saudi royal family members to secure lucrative arms contracts. (Temko and Morgan, 2006)
Corruption is not a new phenomenon; neither is it confined to any particular country; according to the English historian Edward Gibbon, it is the “most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty.” (Ghazanfar and May 2000). Almost every country is afflicted by corruption, though it may vary in severity, and different countries may rank differently on an index of corruption. Companies in Russia, China, India, and Brazil are most likely to pay bribes to procure contracts, whether in their own countries or abroad. (Williamson, 2006). Cameroon has been ranked as the most corrupt country according to one survey while Denmark has been rated the cleanest. (Ghazanfar and May 2000).
The problem of corruption is most acute in developing countries. Leaders in such countries have amassed personal fortunes while in office by engaging in corrupt activities. President Mobutu Sese-Seko of Zaire diverted $50 million to $75 million from government funds to his private account, while President Peron of Argentina accumulated $700 million in foreign bank accounts (Ghazanfar and May 2000). The World Bank has pointed out that “the poor pay a higher share of their income on bribes than the rich.” In third world countries, corruption is only a symptom of the broader social, political, and economic causes of these countries. One of these may be that many of these developing nations are in a state of transition from the colonial rule so that there is an atmosphere of instability.
Establishments in such countries are not yet set up to ensure total accountability. The tendency to engage in corruption is exacerbated by the low salaries paid to politicians and government officers, while citizens are clamoring for public services and amenities that are not yet fully developed. (Ghazanfar and May 2000). Losing a job is no hardship since jobs are poorly paid in the first place, and it becomes more profitable for individuals to seek benefits from Government and avoid payment of any fees; it is such self-seeking behavior that leads to corruption. (Klitgaard, 2000)
Thomas (2001) points out that the justice system in such countries is not fully developed either. Police forces are ill-trained and inadequately equipped while being subject to too high a degree of interference from political forces. Judiciaries are weak and poorly funded and, therefore, no match for white-collar criminals; they only become increasingly susceptible to corruption. Case files are not properly filed and maintained; judges sometimes do not even have access to paper on which to write judgments. Their function is always hindered by too much interference from the executive branch of Government. Where accountability is concerned, government officials may protect themselves by deliberately destroying accountability, tampering with and destroying any evidence against them.
Corruption has a very destructive effect. It increases the cost of projects, deprives countries of the finances required for development, and distorts the relationships of poor people with their Government because it creates a distrust of public officials and the police who attempt to extort bribes from them. It diverts expenditure away from the vital areas of health, education, and infrastructure into those areas where kickbacks can be handed out, such as construction and defense.
According to Thomas (2001), the causes of corruption lie with the nature of governance itself, where the executive seizes too much power so that the structure of Government itself consists of cronies, who are pressured to grant personal favors at the expense of greater accountability and honest dealings in Government. In such a volatile, unstable environment peopled by individuals who are keener to do favors for one other and benefit from government funds rather than putting it into activities that will benefit development, corruption becomes more prevalent. One of the problems in such a scenario is that “ensuring accountability” becomes “the most difficult issue.” (Pope-Vogl, 2000). The consequences of corrupt behavior and the scope for punishment are also limited. Hence there is no significant deterrent to corruptive conduct.
In developing nations where companies engage in corruption while also seeking contracts in foreign countries, the justification offered is that it is a local practice that everyone engages in. (Williamson, 2006). The phenomenon is no less prevalent among companies from the western nations seeking to secure foreign contracts, as demonstrated by Britain’s BAE Systems. (Temko and Morgan, 2006). According to David Nussbaum, the Director of Transparency International, an anti-corruption organization, the argument that everyone engages in bribe paying offers no justification, because there are some countries such as Sweden and Switzerland where the bribe paying culture does not exist at all (Williamson, 2006). While the enhanced role of law enforcement activity has reduced the incidence of corruption in rich countries, their failure to also apply such strict standards to business done outside the country may be contributing to corruption, thereby replicating the trend that may be discerned in developing countries where law enforcement systems are weak and politically influenced. Based on the above, it may thus be concluded that while corruption is destructive and needs to be tackled, the reasons for its incidence are understandable. It is a widespread and multifaceted problem that is not an easy one to tackle. Increasing accountability and strengthening law enforcement activity all over the world may offer the only viable options to tackle it.
Ans 2: The AIDS epidemic is spiraling into a pandemic, with a U.N. Aids Report demonstrating that 3.1 million were killed due to the AIDS virus in 2001, of which 610,000 were children. (Boseley, 2002). An additional 5 million people were infected with the AIDS virus in 2002, and the virus is spreading into eastern Europe while threatening to blow up into a pandemic in Asia. In India, a U.S. intelligence report estimated that there were 4 million people in India infected with the AIDS virus in 2001, and the number could escalate to 25 million by 2010. (Boseley, 2002). Some of the poorest countries in Africa are the most severely afflicted with the virus, and most of the victims die because they do not receive life-saving drugs. The AIDS pandemic is also creating associated problems such as food shortages, the inability to work, and a large percentage of orphans.
The level of susceptibility to AIDS varies from society to society, and there may be different kinds of social, economic, and cultural settings within which AIDS can appear. (Barnet and Whiteside, 2002). The AIDS pandemic is most notable in Africa, where there is the highest number of HIV infected persons. Underlying risk factors for AIDS may vary from country to country; for instance, in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it was war and the rise of corrupt governments, which were the factors fuelling the AIDS epidemic. Conditions of war make children orphans and orphaned girls become ripe victims for sexual abuse, while orphaned boys are forced to serve as soldiers and may also be sexually abused.
But in Tanzania, it was the gradual economic and social changes taking place in the country that was the causal factor accelerating the spread of AIDS. (Barnet and Whiteside, 2002). In South Africa, AIDS can be traced back to the history of apartheid prevalent in that country. Since work in this country was mostly in the mines and factories operated by white South Africans, workers had to travel away from their families to find work and seek sexual gratification through intercourse with prostitutes, which created a culture ripe for the spread of AIDS. Barnet and Whiteside (2002) argue that the apartheid government may have deliberately employed HIV infected men to infect prostitutes.
In India, truck drivers are a significant cause of disease transmission. Most of them engage with prostitutes in unprotected sex and then pass the disease on to their monogamous wives (Harding, 2002). Most of them are unaware of the danger of AIDS and are unable to use a condom because they think it’s putting them off or because they don’t know how to put one on. Poverty forces the prostitutes to agree to unprotected sex merely to earn a few extra rupees. A similar scenario also plays out in African countries, where poverty and ignorance combine to produce unhealthy sexual behavior that causes the disease’s rapid spread.
Some of the significant causes leading to the proliferation of AIDS in African countries are unemployment and poverty. For example, the unemployment rates in South Africa have been rising steadily because a more significant number of workers are entering the labor market each year with a too-high supply of semi-skilled and unskilled labor. At the same time, only a few new jobs are being created. The rise in unemployment may be understated because the percentage of employed persons has also included those in temporary, unregulated employment. (Cassale et al., 2004).
Unemployment leads to poverty, and a link has been established between poverty and an increased risk of infection with the AIDS virus. For example, in Botswana in the year 2000, the per capita household income was projected to fall by 13%, and this corresponded to a rise in about four dependants infected with AIDS. (Botswana Institute for Development and Policy Analysis, 2000). Families suffering from poverty cannot afford treatment for AIDS and may spend more on funerals because the disease spreads so quickly. Since poverty also goes hand in hand with ignorance, they may also be unaware of protective measures such as the use of condoms, which only heightens the risk of contracting the disease.
In their assessment of why Africa, in particular, is afflicted with high levels of AIDS, Barnet and Whiteside (2002) have traced the history of the continent and done case studies on different African countries in order to highlight some of the factors that have made this region susceptible to the AIDS epidemic. These reasons are the geographical disadvantages, the disorder prevailing in these countries due to their relative instability after emerging from colonial rule, the relative deprivation and lack of access to adequate resources and the negative impact of poverty and unemployment, which leaves families without necessary resources and the ability to fight infection through safe health practices. Furthermore, the political milieu existing in these countries may be such that it is difficult for ignorant and miserable people to be aware of and educated about the dangers of the epidemic and raise awareness and consciousness among the people.
In my view, the most significant cause of the AIDS pandemic is the lack of education and awareness. Poverty and unemployment only exacerbate the lack of access of poor people to information about protective measures against AIDS and the ability to pay for treatment when affected. This produces many deaths and an increased population of orphans, impacting disastrously upon the social and economic framework of these countries.