A 13-story building collapsed in China, was thankfully under construction. Via Reuters/Telegraph
Jack Point has an interesting post on the cost of corruption, namely as related to this apartment building toppling over in China. Sri Lanka has had its own issues with dodgy cement and a lot of our new infrastructure is being built by the Chinese. The Hambantota Port, for example, is not actually usable yet and requires around $150 million USD to fix (LBO). The thing about a giant rock is apparently not true though. It’s a lot of littler rocks. Anyways.
Here’s the money quote from his blog, Jest For Kicks:
The bottom line is corruption is a menace and the public will ultimately pay its price; in terms of shoddy service, high costs or unsafe products.
Restoring the independence of the public service (so that its officials can act without fear or favour), something that the 17th amendment to the constitution attempted to do but which was reversed by the 18th amendment. Improving transparency in public affairs is another measure. A lot can take place in murky backroom deals, shining daylight on these will make this a lot harder. (The Point)
On his solutions I broadly agree. More specifically, though, no government is ever going to concede power. It has to be taken.
Look at it like a business. If my Dialog connection kicks I call customer service and if they piss me off I go to Mobitel (that’s an example, I’m quite happily on Dialog now). They are aware of this so they provide customer service and try to provide a good product on an ongoing basis. Why? Because I have power. Perhaps not the power to change their system, but I do have the power to leave. Which is enough.
Government, however, is a monopoly. They actually do have a similar feedback loop, but it takes the circle much, much longer to turn. People don’t really have the power to leave, since immigration is far more complicated than switching SIMs. Thus, the system isn’t really incentivized to police itself, it has to be policed from outside. Which is why I think transparency and freedom of information are so important. Because people can’t police what they don’t see.
Right now Sri Lankans periodically attack police stations when the police kill a young person. Indeed, any country seems to be one dead teenager away from serious instability. If the people could police their government incrementally before shit got out of control, then maybe shit wouldn’t get out of control.
Anyways, corruption bad, transparency good, Jack Point’s article, worth a read. Also, I wrote something previously on Corruption Kills (In China) which has some pretty interesting graphs and stats. For example, “Of all earthquake fatalities attributable to building collapse in the past three decades, 82.6% occur in societies that are anomalously corrupt”. Madness.