BANGLADESH having been ranked the most bribery-prone country in South Asia in the Trace Bribery Risk Matrix 2019 is worrying and suggests a widespread culture of impunity and lack of transparency in terms of bribery. The Bribery Matrix that the US-based Trace International published on Tuesday also identifies Bangladesh as the most risky country in terms of bribery threats in South Asia and observes that the menace has grown stronger in recent years. The assessment has surveyed 200 countries in the light of a combined and weighted score in four domains — business interactions with government, anti-bribery deterrence and enforcement, government and civil service transparency and capacity for civil society oversight. Bangladesh, with a score of 72 out of 100, is ranked 178th among the 200 countries. Other South Asian countries, even the war-torn Afghanistan, are in better positions. A similar disconcerting picture of bribery and corruption in Bangladesh has also been evident in the Berlin-based Transparency International report, which ranked Bangladesh as the 13th most corrupt country among 180 countries in 2018. Bangladesh, in fact, has continuously been ranked between the third and 17th by the organisation in the preceding decade.
Bribery has been so institutionalised in all services sectors that many do not consider bribery to be illegal and view it as speed money. According to a 2018 survey by the Transparency International, Bangladesh, an estimated Tk 106.89 billion was paid in bribe in 2017, which was 3.4 per cent of the national budget that time. The report also revealed that at least 68 per cent of rural and 65 per cent of urban people experienced bribery while seeking legitimate services from law enforcement agencies, road transport authorities, court offices, land records and settlement offices, educational institutions, hospitals and 11 other services sectors. The survey also said that 63 per cent of farmers, 57.5 per cent of people living on fishing, 54.6 per cent of transport workers, 54 per cent of cottage industry owners and 53.1 per cent of non-resident Bangladeshis were victims of bribery. It is disconcerting that people are compelled to surrender to corrupt service providers, who enjoy impunity of a sort and lack of accountability and transparency because of the institutionalisation of bribery. Such a situation has, as experts say, adverse impact on the economy and development and deprives people of their right to legitimate services.
The government must, therefore, work out a comprehensive strategy to stop bribery. In doing so, the government must ensure that the laws against bribery and corruption are stringently enforced and offenders are punished exemplarily. People at large also need to raise their voice against bribery and mount pressure on the government to end this culture.
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