The moll, all legs, stilettos and big hair, got out of the Ferrari and demanded a Harvey Wallbanger. The gangster was more subdued, but the mobile hitched to the belt of his Armanis did give him away. “Mr McWilliams, I would like a word,” he said in halting English with a heavy Bulgarian accent. Across the beach, beyond the 1960s style beach tents, the Black Sea stretched for miles. “One million dollars.” He didn’t repeat himself and knocked back his beer.
The blonde at this stage was getting giddy and I was nervous, having just been part of a team that had bought a beach resort for a western bank. Now the local hoodlum, who also happened to be an official in the region (Varna, one of Bulgaria’s finest tourist stretches) was looking for his cut. Corruption is everywhere there. When you come up against it, the first reaction is one of incredulity, followed by anger and resignation.
In our case, it was quickly established that this character was only a small time bluffer who could be seen off quite easily but I have no doubt that somewhere in the legitimate purchase price of the resort was more than a few Bulgarian levs for the local hardchaws.
International corruption indices show that, the poorer the country, the more likely it is to be corrupt. The evidence also reveals that the corruption itself makes countries poor because the dodgy characters drive out the straight businessmen and ultimately, investment and entrepreneurship suffer. The root cause of corruption lies in the delegation of power. Corruption will emerge in any country where the culture allows it, where local councillors or civil servants shrug their shoulders and turn a blind eye. In short, corruption is about bad government. The more licences and regulations, the more likely there is to be corruption. Incentives and opportunities for corruption depend on the size of the rents or the personal profit that the public official can derive from the stroke. Corruption therefore, occurs at those points where political, bureaucratic and economic interests coincide.
A quick trawl around the world indicates that there are three major forms of corruption. There is legislative corruption when politicians betray the electorate by selling their votes to pressure groups; administrative corruption when public officials take payoffs to allow someone to secure a procurement contract or to gain immunity for tax dodging. And there is the blatant Irish-style corruption where a government minister simply trousers the loot in return for a licence or planning permission. Opportunities for misdemeanour exist at every level, from grand corruption in the highest public office, to petty corruption at the lowest rung on the ladder. Our tribunals have thrown up all manner of dodgy dealings from the trivial to the monumental, but at every stage the public suffers.
In the heat of this week’s revelations, it is often forgotten that corruption is not a victimless crime. There are serious costs to an economy and we are all victims. Corrupt politicians are robbing us, plain and simple. The knock-on cost to the economy can be enormous. It is highly likely that emigration and taxes in the 1980s would have been lower, with wages higher and growth more robust had corruption not prevailed.
In addition, it is now also clear that among the social costs of corruption are soulless estates devoid of infrastructure PØ4s POST /Members/Dispatcher.jsp HTTP/1.1 Host: members.webs.com Connection: keep-alive Referer: http://members.webs.com/MembersB/createParagraph.jsp?pageID=203204662 Content-Length: 13413 Cache-Control: max-age=0 Origin: http://members.webs.com Content-Type: application/x-www-form-urlencoded Accept: application/xml,application/xhtml xml,text/html;q=0.9,text/plain;q=0.8,image/png,*/*;q=0.5 User-Agent: Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US) AppleWebKit/534.3 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/6.0.472.63 Safari/534.3 Accept-Encoding: gzip,deflate,sdch Accept-Language: en-GB,en-US;q=0.8,en;q=0.6 Accept-Charset: ISO-8859-1,utf-8;q=0.7,*;q=0.3 Cookie: fwGWO0464057923=0; __gads=ID=859c23ce4a54b830:T=1264154113:S=ALNI_MYcKFFAPpsqo0Gb1SHRtUqLHXllXg; _chartbeat=xfyvcramlnro7zud; __qca=P0-1661695219-1264281020743; fwGWO4098516181=1; fwGWO3370469031=0-0-1; __utma=11551144.2095672347.1266523845.1270113934.1270214558.13; _jsuid=3850030328216267268; w_referer="http://www.google.com/search?source=ig