Grand Corruption and its ramifications

The fact that many other countries, including advanced ones, are also battling against the same demon, does not give us any claim for either justifying what’s happening over here or claiming a moral high ground

Running well past two years now, we seem to have entered an era of grand corruption on an apparently unstoppable scale. However much we may deny it, there can be no doubt that the image of the country has been tarnished as a result – and the fact that many other countries, including advanced ones, are also battling against the same demon, does not give us any claim for either justifying what’s happening over here or claiming a moral high ground. Like, if everyone in our circle is corrupt, so who’s to say what. We have reached a stage so low that, for some, it is a matter of pride to be the pot that calls the kettle black!

A book review in The Economist of 25th March sends shudders down the spine, for it gives an insight into the ramifications of Grand Corruption of nightmarish proportions. It is written by Jason Sharman, professor of international relations at Cambridge University who has specialized in the subject of Grand Corruption, defined as the ‘theft of national wealth by kleptocratic leaders and their cronies, often in poor (albeit resource-rich) countries’. They use shell companies and other such instruments to hide their ill-gotten gains.  —

Angola immediately comes to mind, as it is a country that is much in the news locally these days, because of a certain Mr Alvaro Sobrinho who originates from there. It is a country that had been ravaged by civil war, and what the people were expecting its leaders to do was to use their resources to reconstruct the country, relieve their misery and improve their living conditions. Instead, a dictatorship took over, and much of the national wealth has found its way to a bank in Portugal. As the review notes, ‘much of the money is siphoned off through ”legal corruption”, in business ventures that comply with local laws, often because of legislative tinkering by pliant parliaments’.

The Portuguese authorities have given a clearance to Mr Sobrinho regarding his allegedly shady deals, but their enquiry is still in process. Nevertheless, given the poverty of the Angolan people despite the country being resource rich, we may justifiably ask why should Mr Sobrinho show rather so much interest and generosity in Mauritius than Angola itself? Why did he not prefer to come to the help of his people in his country ravaged by war and its people desperate to scrape a living? Surely it is not Mauritians who need scholarships to go to prestigious universities – and that too, in a scheme that has failed them, and in which the President of the Republic Mrs Ameenah Gurib-Fakim had such a prominent role to play? What has the Planet Earth Institute achieved in concrete terms?

We may be a small country, but our leaders even before independence started to build the institutions in the fields of law, health, education, welfare, diplomacy that would lift us out of the social and economic bottom that had followed the two devastating cyclones of the 1960s. And our continued development has taken us up to the level of a middle income country, far ahead of Angola. So that, it does appear that it’s more likely the case that it is Angola rather than Mauritius that needs Mr Sobrinho’s support.

It is alleged that he would have given away half a dozen luxury cars — although they are still in his company’s name — to various personalities. If that is true, again the question arises: wouldn’t the poorer people of Angola have been deserving of the spending that would have been incurred in this respect in Mauritius? Of course, we don’t mean giving them luxury cars, but the basics of life which they are still crying for?

On the other hand, we have Prof G Mohamedbhai and Mr Iqbal Rajaballee  making declarations to the effect that they never gave authorization to their names being associated with Mr Sobrinho’s local projects.  There are thus many grey areas in these deals concluded, and the citizens of this country are entitled to obtain the necessary clarity on these areas.

The manner in which this saga is unfolding gives little hope for optimism as to the outcome of an eventual enquiry. If there is a lesson to learn here, it is that a lot more due diligence has to be applied whenever any investor expresses interest in any sector in the country. Cosying up to leaders in high positions should raise eyebrows as to the real motivations of  potential investors doing this sort of things – it were best we addressed such issues before things got out of hand and assumed the proportion of a scandal.

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