Is China’s Anticorruption Crusade Reaching a Turning Point? Towards What?

In April 2014, a post on this blog claimed that the People’s Republic of China’s anticorruption campaign was reaching a turning point, and suggested that the campaign might be “significantly curtailed” in light of troubling signs of economic slowdown and strong pushback from other senior Party leaders. This prediction seemed reasonable at the time, yet more than three years later, the campaign shows no signs of winding down: Reports on senior government officials’ downfalls or corrupt fugitives’ repatriation from overseas still hit headlines on an almost daily basis. A recent development, however, does suggest that China’s anticorruption campaign might be reaching a different sort of turning point—turning from a near-exclusive emphasis on aggressive enforcement to institutional reforms that address the root causes of corruption.

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When and Why Do Corrupt Politicians Champion Corruption Reform? A Character Study

Can corrupt leaders enact effective anticorruption reform? The brief answer seems to be yes: Leaders who are (perceived as) corrupt can initiate and support effective anticorruption reform efforts. For example, as this blog has previously discussed, President Peña-Nieto (who has repeatedly been accused of corruption and graft) supported constitutional anticorruption reforms in Mexico. Egypt’s current President, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has similarly launched various anticorruption campaigns, even while fending off numerous corruption allegations.

But why do corrupt leaders institute anticorruption reforms? While there’s no universal explanation, there appear to be at least three archetypes that might help anticorruption activists identify and push unlikely reformers: The Power Player, The Top-Down Director, and The Born-Again Reformer. Continue reading

Reducing Corruption in the Use of Development Aid: The Payment by Results Model

Corrupt diversion of development aid in recipient countries affects both the efficacy of the intended development programs and the willingness to supply aid in donor countries. Mismanagement of development funds has spurred debate over the ability of our current aid models to achieve development goals (improved healthcare, poverty alleviation, etc.). Many possible solutions for reducing corruption’s effect on development have been tested over the years with varying degrees of success. Various approaches have been tried, including conditioning aid or loans on “good governance” policy reforms, allocating development aid to local governments or local NGOs rather than national institutions, improving oversight and tracking of aid money, and supplying loans exclusively to countries that already have relatively favorable corruption scores (called performance-based lending). Each of these models has its own limitations: Conditionality is often viewed as an affront to sovereignty and has not been terribly effective. The local approach does not address governance issues, and local actors have not always proved to be less corrupt. Oversight of funds is important but costly and imperfect. Performance-based lending seems to leave behind many poor countries that cannot jump the corruption “hurdle.”

In searching for alternative models for distributing aid in light of the aid-corruption paradox, some donors have turned to yet another approach: payments by results (PbR). PbR has been supported by the Center for Global Development (see here and here) and has gained significant traction in the past two years by bilateral donors, such as the UK and Norway, and multilateral donors, such as the World Bank. The basic premise of PbR is that payment to the recipient depends on achieved results. The donor and recipient first define the desired outcomes (e.g., increased TB vaccinations, construction of an infrastructure project, etc.) and determine the amount that the donor will give once the desired outcome is met. The donor may provide some money up front to implement the program, but the rest of the payment is contingent upon performance: The recipient carries out the project independently, the donor measures the results, and, if the results meet the agreed-upon objective, the donor releases the remaining funds. This approach stands in contrast to the traditional input model, in which a donor gives the recipient money for inputs and provides a detailed action plan along with significant oversight for achieving results. Continue reading

Cash Crunch: How Will India’s Supreme Court Respond to Modi’s Radical Move?

Last November 8th, the same day the United States elected a kleptocrat to its highest office, an executive on the other side of the world—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi—launched what Larry Summers called “the most sweeping change in currency policy that has occurred anywhere in the world for decades.” Prime Minister Modi’s surprise “demonetization” drive gave citizens fifty days to exchange all 500 and 1000 rupee notes (valued at about 8 and 15 USD respectively). Modi’s radical move, which will remove approximately 86% of all currency in circulation, is an attempt to combat endemic petty corruption, money laundering, terrorist financing, and tax   evasion (only 2% of Indians pay income tax). Prime Minister Modi was elected on an anticorruption platform in 2014, and pledged during his campaign to target hidden cash (so-called “black money”). Yet the demonetization campaign came as a surprise. Indeed, it probably had to be a surprise, lest those hiding fortunes in cash would have been able to prepare for the policy change.

While the Indian public generally supports aggressive anticorruption efforts, it would be hard to exaggerate the disruption resulting from demonetization. The real estate and wedding industries run largely on cash, as do most small businesses. And the demonetization program has hit regular citizens hard: People have been waiting in lines for hours to exchange their cash, which can be especially difficult for the four-fifths of women who don’t have a bank account. In the short term, consumption, the stock market, and growth forecasts have all plummeted and the agricultural sector is expected to suffer as well. Prime Minister Modi acknowledged the campaign would cause pain for many honest people, but believed it was worth it, stating that black money and “corruption are the biggest obstacles in eradicating poverty.” (Since then, the official justification for the campaign appears to have shifted to an attack on the cash economy as a whole, rather than a campaign against black money specifically.)

The fate of the demonetization program now lies with India’s judiciary: Continue reading

Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare: Time to Act Agressively, Quickly on Corruption

Below is the full text of remarks Solomon Islands Prime Mininster Manasseh Sogavare delivered September 8, 2016,  at a workshop in Honiara, Solomon Islands, to develop a national anticorruption strategy for the country 

Hon Premiers and your delegations, Members of the Steering Committee of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy, Representatives of the diplomatic corps and international organisations, senior officials from our integrity institutions and various institutions of our Government, representatives of our business community from the private sector, representatives from our civil society based organisations, ladies and gentlemen. Good morning to you all.

Let me say at the outset how pleased I am to see many of you attending this national workshop which undoubtedly, you would now know, is a precursor-event to the development and formulation of our country’s first ever National Anti-Corruption Strategy.

I had wanted to address you and the public on the subject matter of “our fight against corruption”, and I am pleased that this opportunity has come up. Like many of you, I am personally convinced that the fight against corruption is not just a fight by Government alone, it is a fight by all stakeholders. It is a fight that must be pursued by all of us collectively. Continue reading

National Anticorruption Strategies: A Request for Assistance

GAB editor-in-chief Matthew Stephenson and I have been asked by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which serves as the Secretariat to UNCAC’s Conference of States Parties, to write a guide to support the development and implementation of effective and sustainable national anti-corruption strategies.  The guide will contain an outline of the key stages in the development of a national strategy, an explanation of the role different stakeholders can play in developing it, models for implementing a strategy, and a discussion the methods for monitoring and evaluating its implementation. Good practices and success stories at all stages of the process — development, implementation, monitoring and reporting — will be highlighted.

We are in the early stages of collecting information and would welcome readers help in identifying useful materials: copies of national strategies, evaluations of their effectiveness, and so forth.  We will of course build upon the fine analysis of Asian countries’ experiences with national strategies that the UNDP Bangkok office released in December, which I wrote about here.  We also have the very useful policy notes posted on the websites of U4 and TI.

To date we have identified 60 plus the countries that have or have had a national anticorruption strategy.  They are listed below.  Additions to this list would also be welcome.

Afghanistan, Albania, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bhutan, Bosnia And Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Haiti, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kuwait, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Southern Sudan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, UK, Ukraine, Vietnam

Anything from newspaper stories to policy papers to academic analyses would be appreciated.  Thanks to Google translate, we will be happy to receive material in any language. You can post suggestions either as a comment on this post, or send your input using the contact page. Thanks in advance!

National Anticorruption Strategies: Lessons from the Asia-Pacific Region

The 173 nation that have ratified the U.N. Convention Against Corruption are obliged by article 5 to “develop and implement or maintain effective, coordinated anticorruption policies . . . .”  Many meet this requirement by adopting a national anticorruption strategy, and such strategies are so common that the World Bank, the U4 Anticorruption Resource Centre, and Transparency International have all published works advising how to develop and implement them.  The latest, and most useful entry, comes from the Bangkok office of the U.N. Development Program.   Released December 9,  Anticorruption Strategies: Understanding What Works, What Doesn’t and Why — Lessons from the Asia-Pacific Region draws on the experience of 14 countries in the region  to  help guide policymakers wanting to promulgate a national strategy or revise an existing one. Continue reading