Corruption is a social evil and it is very bad! It strangles the society, nurtures inequalities and enhances underdevelopment. It is a cancer of development and everybody involved in it is a murderer of the society. Corruption threatens sustainable development, ethical values, and justice and undermines the rule of law. As argued by Mirzayerv:
‘It is difficult for economies that are afflicted by a high level of corruption, which involves the misuse of power, whether in the form of money or authority, in order to achieve certain goals in illegal, dishonest or unfair ways to prosper as fully as those with a low level of corruption. Corrupted economies are just not able to function properly because corruption prevents the natural laws of the economy from functioning freely. As a result, corruption in a nation’s political and economic operations causes its entire society to suffer.
Malawi is a small country located in the southeastern part of Africa and it fits the above example of economies that are afflicted by high level of corruption. It has a population of 16.36 million. Small as it is, no one would expect many issues from the country. But the truth must be told, Malawi has registered many cases of corruption since its independence from the colonial rulers. The practice has spread from one sector to another. The actors have ranged from local citizens to leaders with high repute. This regrettable reality of corruption in Malawi has grown so fast, making the country be ranked 110th out of 175 countries in terms of corruption. This paper will present the negative effects of corruption on development and equality in Malawi.
Definition of corruption
It is important to describe the term corruption before linking it to development. Basically corruption can be defined as the abuse of public power for private benefit. It is form of selfishness or greed that is characterized by unreasonable accumulation of power and resources that are meant to be for public use. In many cases corruption does not only favour an individual but it can also be for the benefit of one’s class, tribe, and family. It is unreasonable because the main actors of corruption do not think ‘beyond their bellies’, in other words, they have no concern whatsoever for other people who also benefit from the same resources.
The negative effects of corruption in Malawi
In Malawi, corruption has been characterized by the embezzlement of public funds, for example, as evidenced by the World Food Program (WFP), it is predicted that 2.8 million Malawians will face hunger in the coming months. The WFP also noted that embezzlement of funds for relief is still a problem in Malawi. The organization reported that since last year organizations provided relief services to help families hit by floods but to their shock the relief services was remitted to reached vulnerable people due to corruption and embezzlement.
Bribery has also been a form of corruption. This is receiving resources in order to incur benefits that if proper channels were applied, those benefits would not be acquired. Misuse of donor aid has also been an issue related to corruption. Foreign aid which is supposed to help poor people ends up into the hands of a few individuals. The funds are then channeled for their individual use. All the above examples of corruption in Malawi have made it difficult for the country to develop.
There are 3 actors in the process of corruption in Malawi, and perhaps in the rest of the world. The main actors are those directly involved in the misuse of the public power and resources for their personal benefit. These are the individuals who directly and mercilessly drag the development of the country backwards.
Then we have the victims, who are the voiceless. These are the people who bear the consequences of the corrupt actions of the main actors. The victims, in most cases are the poor people who have little influence on the affairs of the nation. A poor patient who cannot get a pain killer from a free government hospital, because the pain killer has been re-channeled into a private use is an example of a typical victim of corruption in Malawi.
The third actor of corruption is the silent citizen who does not take action but observes the evils taking place. He or she notices the corruption practices but hardly takes action to stop. Because he or she knows that their effort will bear very little or benefit at all.
How has corruption affected the development of Malawi? In order to respond to this question, it is important to reveal the development status of Malawi. It is not an exaggeration that Malawi is one of the poorest states in the world. Malawi depends on 40% donor funding which shows that the country relies strongly on foreign aid. With all this great dependency the nation still reveals its high level of disrespect by mismanaging the donor aid through corruption.
Corruption alienates foreign and local investors from investing in a country. No one would want to establish a business in a corrupt country. Corrupt and unfriendly tax charges are the obvious expected attitudes the investors have about a country. Malawi attracts very few foreign investors yearly. Although there could be some attributes but corruption is among the key reasons. Local investment is also discouraged because of the corrupt practices present in the nation. Since corruption involves use of public resources that could have been utilized for social welfare services, it robs a country of its capital for investment, which is necessary for economic development. In doing so, it victimizes the poor Malawians since it perpetuates poverty in the country.
Corruption in Malawi has made the country lose its foreign aid. Foreign aid isn’t the ideal when it comes to the development of poor countries. Most poor countries depend on foreign aid to run the affairs of government. The biggest corruption scandal, popularly known as the ‘cashgate’ has made many institutions and nations that give aid to Malawi lose interest in their goodwill. The monies that was supposed to be used by the poor Malawians has ended up going into the pockets of few Malawians. In the year 2014, Malawi lost 30% of its budget to corruption related reasons. The ‘cashgate’ only, made Malawi lose approximately $250 million.
The civil servants involved in this corruption scandal were said to be hiding the money in car trunks or under their beds. , This is a very big loss or a poor country. Perhaps even a sign of total disrespect and lack of appreciation to the donors. People of good will lose interest in helping the poor country because they know that the money or resources will stagnate in the hands of the corrupt leaders and will never reach the poor, who deserve it more. The effects of the ‘cashgate’ have affected the country negatively, for example delaying the monthly payment of the civil servants.
Corruption has also killed innovation and creativity in Malawi. The majority, who are the poor, do not have any say on the expenditure of the public resources. They are not even consulted on how the money is going to be used. This top down approach makes the poor people’s contribution to development not to be recognized. The lack of the poor people’s contribution in development projects hinders holistic development, because the poor are the ones who know the actual situations facing them.
Corruption has also led to a number of strikes especially among the civil servants. Workers become annoyed because they do not get their payment on time because of the misuse of the money. This has demoralized workers and reduces the amount of commitment that workers put in their various works. One sad example is the strike of the medical personnel which leaves the sick people in the hospitals without care and eventually led to death. What is unfair is that the rich never go to the local hospitals. For example, patients in Lilongwe were left without any staff member and this was because of the delay in payment by the government. Strikes have also applied to teachers seeking their payment on due time.
Corruption has also led to losing of government revenue in Malawi. Most of the government money has been misappropriated by few individuals who use the money for their individual purposes. This has well been the case with the resources and it undermines the country’s attempts to fight poverty and inequality. .
Corruption not only affects the development of a country in the above ways, it also affects the country’s social sphere. It breaks up the good relationship between citizens and fosters enmity between the corrupt and the victims.
‘In Social sphere, corruption discourages people to work together for the common good. Frustration and general apathy among the public result in a weak civil society. Demanding and paying bribes becomes the tradition. It also results in social inequality and widened gap between the rich and the poor, civil strive, increased poverty and lack of basic needs like food, water and drugs, jealousy, hatred and insecurity.
Having looked at the above negative effects of corruption on development in Malawi, it is important to mention that, the only option the country has is to improve its mechanisms on addressing corruption. From the above arguments, it is evident that corruption and development cannot go together. If Malawi wants to enjoy the fruits of development, corruption has to be fought. There is a away to prosperity and the only way is to fight corruption. The citizens have to be aware of the corrupt practices taking place in their country. They should exercise their freedom of speech by questioning the malpractices that pin the country’s development down.