By Luke Balleny
A critical look at some of the good governance stories from the past week:
Many people may be unaware that a permit is required to drink, possess or transport alcohol in Mumbai, but the 63-year-old law exists, and the city’s police have started to enforce it. With prices ranging from 5 rupees (about 10 cents) for a daily permit and 1,000 rupees ($18) for a lifetime permit, all but society’s poorest can probably afford one. However, the potential for corruption in the system is enormous: Anyone caught drinking without a permit on their person could be asked for a bribe to escape prosecution. And given that so many people are unaware of the need for a permit in the first place, the temptation to pay a small bribe instead of a possible $895 fine is significant. What's more, there are plenty of opportunities for permit applications to be delayed or turned down without a bribe.
Developing countries with reputations for endemic corruption often retort that the situation in the developed world is just as bad, but simply occurs in less explicit ways. The U.S. Supreme Court is to speak indirectly to that accusation when it hears an appeal by a former state governor who was convicted in 2006 of bribery. The verdict could have huge ramifications for political campaign donations in the United States.
There is mounting evidence that the UK Bribery Act is having a negative effect on corporate entertaining at the upcoming London Olympics. Firms are wrestling with how they can determine when something seemingly innocent and lawful like entertainment at the Olympics crosses over into bribery.
An analysis of a recent editorial in China’s state-owned Global Times which appeared to justify official corruption, suggests that since it can't be wiped out entirely, efforts must be concentrated on controlling it so it doesn’t cause popular unrest. The editorial caused a firestorm of discussion on China’s notorious micro-blogs and was swiftly taken down from the Global Times website.
The acquittal of Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak on corruption charges was overshadowed by the fact that he was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the killing of protestors in a popular uprising, which began in January 2011. The Egyptian government had alleged that money in the foreign bank accounts of Mubarak and his two sons was corruptly acquired. That money now legally belongs to the Mubaraks and they will be free to spend it as soon as their accounts are unfrozen.
From time-to-time a corruption-related story breaks and becomes a gift for news headline-writers. This week, the news that the United States is cancelling funding for a Pakistani version of the children's television series "Sesame Street," due to corruption allegations has become one of those stories. While Reuters played it straight, other news organisations decided to have some fun with it. Here are some of my favourites: