“There is no question that corruption represents one of the biggest threats to stability and economic growth in developing countries, and remains stubbornly resistant to any attempts to reduce and eliminate it. This is the view of David Silverstein, CEO of strategic management and consulting firm BMGI, who recently wrote a paper on how to break the cycle of bureaucracy and corruption in developing countries.
“Most corruption in the developing world has at its roots in a long history of control and mistrust,” Silverstein said. In Apartheid South Africa, white minority rulers wanted to control the black population; in colonial India, a similar relationship evolved between the governing British rulers and native Indian population; in communist China and Russia, control of the population and distrust of workers similarly led to excessive bureaucracy and, ultimately, corruption.
The key word, according to Silverstein, is bureaucracy. “Bureaucracy drives corruption and corruption breeds new bureaucracy.” Initially, people just work around the rules to get the job done. This results in more rules and more workarounds. “It is both ironic and paradoxical to realize that the steps taken to defeat corruption—more and more rules and regulations —actually exacerbate it. Corruption and bureaucracy feed each other in a vicious, circular relationship.”
According to Silverstein, most efforts to break the cycle fail because new rules and regulations, and more aggressive enforcement, merely feeds and perpetuates a vicious cycle.
So, what is to be done? Silverstein believes that “to defeat corruption and to break the bureaucracy-corruption cycle, we must establish a culture of trust and accountability.”