28 Feb - 6 Mar 2014 #696

Bribing officials not to be corrupt

Ass
Given the wheels within wheels of Nepali politics, it is difficult enough to find out what is going on, so it must be infuriatingly more frustrating to try to steer the course of events. Researchers and analysers should have given up long ago trying to influence the course of politics because there are just too many variables. Manipulators are manipulated by their own manipulations. When you can’t ensure that a certain intervention will have a specific intended outcome, why bother? Which is why it is puzzling why the Underdone were rooting so exclusively for Comrade Leftist God in the Ministry of Interior Designs. Primordial Minister Jhusil stuck it out till the end saying he would entertain Bum Dave at Home over his dead body, but in the end the pressure got too much to bear. He saw a certain merit in giving control of the security apparatus to the UML rather than someone from Brave Lion’s camp, but why were Shri Amrace, Shri Sitola, and their handlers pushing so forcefully for Comrade Balm and blackmailing Jhoos with an election for a new prez? What has Bomb Dev promised in return??

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One of the few things that Nepalis can be justifiably proud of is our consistently outstanding performance in the annual rankings of Transparency International. In fact, a clean and uncorrupt Nepal is almost unthinkable, so much has malfeasance become a part of our national identity. Which is why we can’t understand the zeal with which the CIAA is trying to clean up our tainted image. It is a matter of national importance that we maintain our rank in the Corruption Index, even if it means bribing the folks at Transparency International.

Because, let’s admit it, we have lost the war on corruption. We have tried everything. First we passed laws against it, but that made it worse because crooks could just buy their way out once caught. We tried sending officials on study tours to Singapore, but they just came back with electronic consumer items and bribed their way through customs.

We thought we could fight corruption in our fatalistic country by using religion and telling people that stealing was a sin, but they bribed the gods with ladoos. We tried superstition, spreading the rumour that those who gave or took bribes would be punished in their afterlife to be reborn as prawns, but that just made them want to amass more wealth in this life.

There is now hope that the Human Genome Project will be able to pinpoint the exact genes for greed. People who are genetically susceptible to purloining public funds can be detected well in advance if their DNA has gene sequences responsible for secreting the hormone, corruption-enhancing-receptor protein (CERP). And if they do, they can be debarred from holding public office. Human trials have begun and the government is starting by vaccinating immoral immigration officials.

But what do we do while waiting for scientists to develop genetically-modified Nepalis? One idea that is gaining currency, as it were, is to tax corruption. Levying a surcharge on graft and bribes would be like a vice tax on alcohol and tobacco and could be a massive revenue earner for the exchequer. A scaled rate would ensure that bigger bribes would fall under a higher tax bracket and we could even introduce tax at source for bribe givers. There could be tax exemptions for life-or-death transactions, for example when one has to bribe a doctor or a hospital to treat a patient. There can be tax holidays for bribes paid in the hydropower sector. We could also remove double taxation, so that someone who has bribed regulators abroad will not have to pay VAT on bribes paid here. Foreign diplomatic missions and international agencies will, of course, have duty-free status on bribes they dole out, since their presence in our country is governed by the Montreal Protocol.

But for all this to happen, first we must legalise corruption which will mean that corruption will actually contribute to Nepal’s GDP growth. Legitimising corruption will mean we don’t have to waste any more time on frequent seminars and workshops on ‘Accountability, Integrity, and Governance in the Context of the Civil Service’.

If that doesn’t work, the weapon of last resort would be to bribe officials not to be corrupt. At least it would mean that we retain our bottom of the table ranking in the TI Index.

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