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Corruption in Afghanistan is considered one of the greatest challenges and issues both the citizens and government is facing. It has become widely recognized one of the major source of increasing poverty, backwardness, and instability in the country. It has also been considered a key challenge for governance and rule of law. Apart from this corruption is also an obstacle for the sustainable growth of economy which the country is struggling with. Although, both the government and the citizens have taken major steps to decrease the level of corruption in the governmental departments, the results are still not convincing. Different attempts have been made in order to define corruption; but still there is no precise, clear, single and accepted definition corruption which can be applicable to all forms, types and degrees of corruption. According to World Bank “corruption is defined as the use of public office for private gains, or in other words, use of official position, rank or status by an office bearer for his own personal benefit.” In this definition, examples of corrupt behaviors include: (a) bribery, (b) extortion, (c) fraud, (d) embezzlement, (e) nepotism, (f) cronyism, (g) appropriation of public assets and property for private use, and (h) influence peddling. (Myint) Corruption has posed serious challenges to the Afghan societies. In the political realm, it has undermined democratic values and good governance and has negatively affected formal democratic processes. Corrupt elections in have reduced the amount of accountability and responsiveness in the elected officials. In the judiciary, corruption in many instances has compromised the rule of law and responsibility against public. More generally, corruption has decreased the capacity of the governmental institutions. Many procedures in the government institutions are considered useless. Apart from this the public wealth and public resources are unequally distributed; the offices are often bought and sold. Moreover, corruption has also undermined the legitimacy of Afghan government and has negatively affected public trust and their tolerance. Everybody understands that corruption will not do any good to anyone. On the contrary, it harms everybody and society. So, in order to get rid of this serious issue and live in a corruption free society everybody should take a stand against corruption.
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Although, the Afghan government has made several commitments to combat corruption, but the problem is still widespread. Fighting and finally eradication of corruption needs serious work and commitments. It is understandable that corruption cannot be eradicated in a short period of time. It needs years and maybe decades. Combating corruption is not easy. In order to do so, one should know the causes and effects of the corruption on societies. Apart from governmental institutions, International Non-governmental Organizations such as Integrity Watch Afghanistan, United Nationals Agencies and Transparency International has found out numerous causes of corruption in Afghanistan among which United Nation Development Program (UNDP) has offered a broader list of commonly cited causes of corruption. “The list includes: (i) a lack of rules, oversight and enforcement; (ii) institutional weaknesses in legislative and judicial systems; (iii) low incomes for public officials; (iv) high rewards compared to risks for corrupt behavior; and (v) a low likelihood of having corruption detected.” (Balboa and Medalla) All the issues which cause corruption have created serious threats to Afghanistan’s development, questioned government legitimacy, increased tension between Afghan government and international community which in result has caused instability. Its growing threat has undermined the authority and accountability of government and has decreased the public trust in the government.
The effect of corruption has many political, economic, social and environmental effects on the Afghan society which will be discussed one by one. In political spectrum, corruption has obstructed the democratic values which are the basis of Afghan government and the rule of law. Corruption is considered as one of the main obstacles to the development of democracy. Public institutions and governmental departments which are mainly created for the delivery of public services are the units of democratic system. When the officials of these institutions engage in corrupt activities, the institution loses their credibility. Lack of accountability can question the legitimacy of these institutions. Increase in corruption can result political instability and lack of transparency. Apart from this, corrupt societies lack sound political competition. The decisions are often made based on personal authority rather than legal authority which in turn undermine democratic values. These issues finally lead to anger and frustration in the citizens. For instance, “Khalis Shinwari, a volunteer inspector assigned by the local elders in Jalalabad to identify cases of bad craftsmanship in development projects, told The Washington Post that “the people are angryâ€¦but to whom they can complain?” (Basar) This sort of dissatisfaction in the citizens can pose major challenges for the young democratic system of Afghanistan.
The economic effects of corruption have serious impact on the whole country. First and foremost, corruption causes the misuse of national wealth by a small part of the population. It often results the unequal distribution of wealth, increases costs of goods and the delivery of public services. A report by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) lists some major economic consequences of corruption as “(i) Prevention of economic growth; (ii) reduction in the effectiveness of international assistance; and (ii) loss of tax revenue given that bribes may be paid to evade taxes and customs.” (Basar) In corrupt societies corruption causes the transformation of public wealth into private and neglects the necessities of public. The funds are spent on unnecessary projects and the basic needs of citizens are often ignored.
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Socially, corruption discourages people for working together for the common good of a society. It disturbs social services delivery, increase frustration among the citizens, which in return results in a weak civil society. Apart from this, corruption increases poverty in a society, and increase the gap between the rich and poor. In a corrupt society, paying and taking bribes becomes a tradition which results in inequality, hatred and insecurity. “According to UNDP, corruption increases the price of public services and lowers their quality.” (Basar) Furthermore, paying bribes for public service frustrate citizens and demoralizes citizen’s trust on the government which causes social unrest.
To sum up, it has become clear that if Afghanistan wants to emerge as a strong democratic state, the government and the citizens need to take concrete steps to fight this serious disease which is spreading day by day. History has shown that corruption has been one of the main factors for the downfall of many regimes. It undermines the legitimacy of the government, weakening the structure; badly affect the economy, worsening poverty, affect reconstruction and increase insecurity and instability. Everybody understands that Afghanistan is decades away from reaching corrupt free society but both government and the citizens has to take a stand and place the fight against corruption as one of the top priorities for the development and stabilization of their beloved country.
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