Stop the corrupt -- that's my hope for 2014.
Across the world people are angry with politicians and public officials, and with bankers too.
* Trust is broken. A host of opinion polls tell a blunt story. Public approval of the United States Congress has recently slumped to a single figure -- 9 percent, says Gallup.
* In a 2013 survey of 114,000 people in 107 countries, Transparency International found that one person in four was forced to pay a bribe, be it by policemen, public hospital workers or school teachers and administrators.
* In a landmark BBC poll, which I think is as valid today as when it was taken in 2010, the blunt conclusion was: "Corruption is the world's most frequently discussed global problem."
Too often the political and business establishments in many countries gloss over the impact of corruption. They underestimate the scale of public anger. They fail to fully appreciate that corruption kills, it impoverishes, it robs people of their dignity, their freedom and their rights.
When a group of East African terrorists pay small bribes to secure identity cards and enter Kenya, then soon afterwards people die in a shopping mall in the center of Kenya's capital, Nairobi. When the top officials and their cronies in oil-rich countries, such as Angola and Gabon, put all the royalty income in their pockets and leave the national treasury empty, then the vast majority of citizens are trapped in misery. When policemen stop people on the streets, day after day, to demand bribes, then those forced to pay are utterly humiliated and deprived of their self-respect. And, in most societies where graft is rampant, then press freedom, freedom of assembly and freedom of information are all suppressed.
The public anger cannot be ignored.
Establishment politicians in New Delhi, India, thought they could ignore the rising chorus of complaints and now they have paid the price. They lost the recent election and a brand new anti-corruption party has taken the reigns of the city's government. Former President Silvio Berlusconi refused to accept that corruption was an important issue -- recent months saw him hurled out of the Italian Senate, his political party torn apart, and the emergence of a major new political party that has anti-corruption as its central pillar.
How events develop in Turkey in coming days and weeks is uncertain. But, a host of top officials and their cronies (and three sons of cabinet ministers) and many businessmen who operate public sector contracts have all been hauled in for questioning in a major corruption inquiry. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has denounced the investigations, fired some top police officers and blamed foreign forces for the troubles. But, if the investigations proceed, then it could wreck his hopes of winning next year's presidential election.
2014 will be the year when the public anger over corruption will be channeled into more and more public demonstrations in many capital cities; when the scale of investigations rises significantly into multinational corporations bribing foreign government officials, and banks engaging in money laundering for crooked clients; and, when there will be a greater focus in more countries than ever on just where the cash comes from in major election campaigns and how special interests strive to buy politicians and elections.
The anger of the public over corruption will rise in large measure because politicians will continue to avoid the issue, and because of the exceptional reporting by many non-mainstream media organizations and by activist civil society groups across the world. Social media will buzz on an unprecedented scale as the activists strive to inform the public at large about the abuse of high office for personal gain by elected politicians who pledged to serve the public interest.
If you want to be better informed on the crimes of corruption across the globe then just keep track of the activities of Global Witness, the brilliant UK not-for-profit investigative group. For those with a particular concern about corruption in the U.S., then there is no better starting point than monitoring what the outstanding reporting team at not-for-profit ProPublica is up to.
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