New evidence democracy reduces corruption

World Bank logo.
World Bank logo (The World Bank Group)

West African countries which have made gains in democracy, such as Ghana, Liberia and Niger, also appear to have reined in corruption, according to a 10 July 2007 World Bank report.

“Countries that have undergone a democratic transition have much lower cases of corruption than other countries,” Edouard Al-Dahdah, operations officer at the World Bank Institute, which produced the report, told IRIN.

Corruption raises the cost of building infrastructure in countries by up to 20 percent, leaving the state with less money to spend on public services, Mouhamadou Mbodj, coordinator of Forum Civil, the Senegalese chapter of global anti-corruption organisation Transparency International, told IRIN. African youth continue to see corruption as their best hope of advancing, Mbodj said.

Democracy also suffers when corrupt politicians attempt to buy votes. Yet democracy provides mechanisms by which to fight corruption, such as a free press to air allegations of corruption and the right of citizens to go to the streets to protest the questionable actions of officials, Al-Dahdah, of the World Bank, said.

The authors of the report cautioned that not all gains in controlling corruption can be considered statistically significant yet they said they are convinced that there is a correlation between democracy and curruption. “These links are never air-tight. It’s not a one-to-one link,” Daniel Kaufmann, co-author of the Governance Matters report and director of Global Governance at the World Bank Institute, told IRIN.

Indeed the evidence is encouraging. “In terms of the overall trends, for the world and certainly for West Africa, the relationship and the correlation is in the same direction,” Kaufmann said. 

Al-Dahdah also said many West African countries have seen a democratic transition over the last 10 years. “Some countries have greatly reformed and are catching up with the rest of the [world’s] nations.”

The bad news

Some West African countries, however, are less able to control corruption than ever and the report found no evidence that governance had improved overall in the region.

Countries with natural resource wealth did especially poorly, according to the report. Oil-rich countries such as Cameroon, Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea made no progress in fighting corruption, the report said.

Armed conflict also undermined transparency, the report found. One of the most corrupt countries in the region is Cote d’Ivoire, where a rebellion in 2002 plunged the country into a civil war. The report found goverance had deteriorated in each of the six categories measured: voice and accountability; political stability and absence of violence; government effectiveness; regulatory quality; rule of law; and control of corruption.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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