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    Corruption Denies Job Opportunities

    Corruption in our part of the world is by no means a new story. But by the same token, it’s not a traditional story either. As Transparency International points out in its 2009 Corruption Index, a handful of states in the Arab world are the world’s “leaders” in this domain, considered among the most corrupt systems on the planet. And according to the experts, while politicians might see corruption as the only thing holding their rickety countries together, it’s also a phenomenon that could eventually tear these same countries apart.
    The traditional image might be the petty bureaucrat on the take, stuffing his or her pockets with ill-gotten gains in return for petty favors. Or, the same scene, but at a higher governmental level. Inefficient and wasteful state institutions that pay employees for little to no work are another typical example of this waste.
    But these traditional images of corruption and inefficiency usually aren’t linked, in the public’s mind, to their consequences: people with poorly-paying jobs, or no jobs at all. Or the thousands of people who leave countries like Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Syria and Iraq, for example, in search of better opportunities abroad. Not surprisingly, these five labor-exporting countries are the top corruption offenders, according to TI.
    While corruption might be a national disease in the Arab world, the traditional picture – petty bureaucrats on the take – isn’t where we should focus.

    We’ve reached the point where we need to create, with United Nations endorsement and backed by sufficient studies, an initiative to generate millions of jobs for our region. This is where corruption has its impact. It shrinks the economy and doesn’t create jobs, unless they’re in the parallel economy, of no benefit to the state and the rest of society.
    It’s easy to moralize about the daily corruption that we see or hear about, but it’s much more difficult to tackle the practical need for fighting corruption and enlarging the economic pie for everyone.
    This is particularly true in a region where so many people are under the age of 25, and steadily and rapidly entering the job market. Providing jobs is simply critical for domestic stability, and stemming corruption is way to boost this stability. People need jobs and they should be provided before they’re demanded; desperate people are more prone to do desperate things to secure a decent living.
    Corruption as the act of taking something is certainly important, but for the long term, we can also think of it as the failure to provide (opportunities) by those whose business it is to oversee public affairs. If our leaders are incapable of growing our economies and societies so they can meet the challenges of the 21st century, then they shouldn’t be in their posts.

    The Daily Star
    03.02.2010

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