This House believes that bribery is sometimes acceptable

Corruption is operationally defined as the misuse of entrusted power for private gain. Facilitation payments, where a bribe is paid to receive preferential treatment for something that the receiver is required to do by law (e.g. an official processing a license application), constitute "according to rule" corruption. Corruption "against the rule", on the other hand, is a bribe paid to obtain services the receiver is prohibited from providing (e.g. a policeman ignoring a crime or favourable marking of a student’s examination paper).

The phenomenon of corruption has complex reasons that include flaws in legal system, the lack of democratic traditions and political accountability, social and economic difficulties, and low pay for public officials. Corruption affects people's lives in a multitude of ways. In the worst cases, corruption costs people’s lives. In countless other cases, it costs their freedom, health, or money. It is becoming an international problem due to increasing level of globalisation and international trade. 

Transparency International (TI) – the biggest organisation that fights corruption on a global level - believes that keeping corruption in check is only feasible if government, business and civil society work together and agree on a set of standards and procedures they all support.[1]

[1] Transparency International, ‘Frequently asked questions about corruption’, http://www.transparency.org/news_room/faq/corruption_faq

 

Title 
Individuals may have no choice
Point 

People are often made to give bribes to officials because of unfavourable economic, social or bureaucratic conditions. Officials may refuse to serve clients unless they are paid. For example in Delhi police officers regularly take lunch without paying and more senior officers take 10,000 each month to allow the restaurant to stay open late.[1] In those countries where state institutions are extremely corrupted, refusal to give a bribe may cost financial losses for business representatives or even health and liberty for citizens who need medical service and access to justice.

[1] Burke, Jason, ‘Corruption in India: ‘All your life you pay for things that should be free’, guardian.co.uk, 19 August 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/19/corruption-india-anna-hazare

Counterpoint 

The position of civil society plays a key role in reducing corruption. Its action in taking a moral stand against corrupted officials is an important precondition for effective anticorruption policy. Hence, citizens who put up with the necessity to give a bribe become a part of the problem. It is not just the case of public officials abusing their positions, but of people who are tempted to choose the easiest way out. Recent developments in India show how quickly expectations can change once people begin to make a stand. Anna Hazare went on a hunger strike creating a mass movement against bribery. Now there are websites such as ipaidabribe.com popping up to shine a spotlight on corruption.[1] The change is the first step in the fight against corruption.

[1] Campion, Mukti Jain, ‘Bribery in India: A website for whistleblowers’, BBC News, 6 June 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13616123

Title 
Bribery is sometimes necessary for survival
Point 

"Survival" corruption, practised by public servants, is usually the result of small salaries, perhaps in highly inflationary economies, which do not allow them to make a living. Such as with the junior police officers mentioned in the previous point. Without bribery, public administration would collapse altogether as no one would have any incentive to get anything done. Thus the level of corruption is determined by the poor economic situation of the country as well as by the policy of the government.

Counterpoint 

Corruption in any form creates inefficiency and ‘drag’ on the economy – it is an unofficial form of transaction tax and has the same effect on the economy.

The proposition focuses on the ‘seen’ detriment to public servants of losing income from bribery but ignores the ‘unseen’ benefit of ending bribery which is that the cost of living naturally falls with the cost of doing business.

Title 
Bribery is sometimes the cost of doing business
Point 

Bribery is often inevitable for foreign companies that invest in those countries, where corruption is widespread and the conditions for business development are unfavourable. In Russia IKEA, the Swedish furniture company, was asked to pay bribes to get electricity for its stores and refused hiring generators instead, however the generators themselves had their price inflated, as a result IKEA suspended investment in Russia.[1] It illustrates that bribe giving is just a result of political system with weak democratic traditions. That is why many companies from developed countries, where corruption levels are low, tend to practise bribery in the developing world.

[1] Kramer, Andrew E., ‘Ikea Tries to Build Public Case Against Russian Corruption’, The New York Times, 11 September 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/business/global/12ikea.html?_r=1

Counterpoint 

The developed world also carries part of responsibility for the situation in the developing world due to its role as the bribe-payer. After all, it is largely multinational corporate interests that supply the bribe payments. They defraud the citizens of developing countries who get a less good deal as a result, as well as the interests of shareholders at home whose money is diverted into the pockets of foreign officials. This shows the necessity of treating the bribing of foreign officials as a criminal offence in companies’ home countries. It also requires the publication of all payments relating to foreign deals.

Title 
Bribery is only wrong under a Western-centric notion of corruption
Point 

Norms and values differ between countries. In many non-western societies gift taking and giving in the public realm is a matter of traditions and customs. Moreover, gift giving is a part of negotiations and relationship building in some parts of the world. It is hypocritical for the west to target developing countries for this as many so-called democracies are hopelessly compromised by business interests through political funding and lobbying.

The United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act bans large bribes but allows for the payment of small ‘customary’ sums in order to ease transactions.[1]

[1] The Economist, ‘When a bribe is merely facilitating business’ June 11th 2011, http://www.economist.com/blogs/blighty/2011/06/anti-bribery-laws

Counterpoint 

In different cultures the lines between the acceptable and unacceptable are drawn differently. However, there are limits in all societies, beyond which an action becomes corrupt and unacceptable. The abuse of power for private gain and the siphoning off of public or common resources to private pockets should be illegal and unacceptable in all cultures and societies.

Title 
Bribery is morally wrong
Point 

Corruption is the misuse of power for financial gain.  It takes the core harm from unequal distribution of wealth and the resulting disparity in availability of goods and services and  magnifies it by including access to just and nominally public services.  It must always disproportionately harm the least well off in society either by denying them what is theirs by right or by forcing them into financial hardship to obtain it.

Counterpoint 

Corruption is not always wrong – it can sometimes be a reaction to greater injustice.  For example, the Mafia arose in 19th Century Southern Italy as a mediating institution for an ‘in group’ facing autocratic tyranny.  Outsiders are treated badly, but then most groups of people that we label as legitimate also treat outsiders differently to their members.

Title 
Variation in standards leads to a ‘race to the bottom’ of corruptibility
Point 

International standards on prosecution of companies who bribe foreign officials may encourage positive changes in national legislation as well, thus eliminating legal flaws to combat corruption. Different national rules and standards for combating corruption are not sufficient in the era of global investments and international business transactions. Variation between national standards enables corruption to spread. In much the same way as companies and rich individuals make use of tax havens and places where taxes are lower and less regulated, all but two of the UK’s FTSE 100 of top companies are set up in tax havens,[1] companies wishing to hide illicit transactions may attempt to take advantage of weaker standards, wherever they are found. In India national laws have clearly not worked with relation to political parties as only one of 45 parties has provided information in response to the Right to Information act.[2] That is why international efforts to ensure the prosecution of the companies that bribe foreign officials are necessary in the current situation.

[1] Provost, Claire, ‘Tax havens and the FTSE 100: the full list’, Datablog guardian.co.uk, 11 October 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/oct/11/ftse100-subsidiaries-tax-data

[2] Times of India, ‘One out of 45 parties disclose information on sources of funding’, 20 July 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-20/india/40694448_1_central-information-commission-political-parties-rti-act

Counterpoint 

The bribery of foreign officials cannot be fought by international means efficiently if the level of corruption at the national level is high. It depends on the political will of national governments, the activities of civil society and other social conditions that exists inside the state. This explains why in many countries there has been little enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials.[1] In most OECD countries the political will to prosecute major bribery cases is lacking. This explains why international efforts to combat corruption are inefficient.

[1] Transparency International, ‘2008 Progress Report on Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions’, 22 June 2008, http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/4th_oecd_progress_report

Title 
The demand for bribes would end if companies stopped supplying them
Point 

The risk of corruption demand greater transparency from business. Companies have a big impact on the social environment and they have a responsibility to address it. Co-operative actions between the business sector and state institutions are essential for effective anti-corruption policy.

Companies that gain a reputation for reporting officials asking for bribes will find that officials stop asking for them. In turn they need a legislative environment that protects their interests. The OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials is an important step forward in this sphere.[1]

[1] ‘OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions’, oecd.org, 1997, http://www.oecd.org/document/21/0,3746,en_2649_34859_2017813_1_1_1_1,00.html

Counterpoint 

Foreign companies simply adapt to the political and economic conditions that exist in different countries. You cannot blame them for high level of corruption, which is the inner problem of the state. Involvement of business representatives in anti-corruption actions may contradict their interests by providing access to commercially sensitive information. If bribery was banned, companies would be unable to operate, resulting in less investment and so less development in some countries.

Bibliography 

Burke, Jason, ‘Corruption in India: ‘All your life you pay for things that should be free’, guardian.co.uk, 19 August 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/aug/19/corruption-india-anna-hazare

Campion, Mukti Jain, ‘Bribery in India: A website for whistleblowers’, BBC News, 6 June 2011, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13616123

Kramer, Andrew E., ‘Ikea Tries to Build Public Case Against Russian Corruption’, The New York Times, 11 September 2009, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/12/business/global/12ikea.html?_r=1

‘OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions’, oecd.org, 1997, http://www.oecd.org/document/21/0,3746,en_2649_34859_2017813_1_1_1_1,00.html

Provost, Claire, ‘Tax havens and the FTSE 100: the full list’, Datablog guardian.co.uk, 11 October 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/oct/11/ftse100-subsidiaries-tax-data

Times of India, ‘One out of 45 parties disclose information on sources of funding’, 20 July 2013, http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2013-07-20/india/40694448_1_central-information-commission-political-parties-rti-act

The Economist, ‘Bribery in Mexico; Contrasting Corruption’ 20th May 2011 http://www.economist.com/blogs/dailychart/2011/05/bribery_mexico

The Economist, ‘The OECD and Corruption; The tents of the righteous’ 17th September 2011 http://www.economist.com/node/21529020

Transparency International, ‘2008 Progress Report on Enforcement of the OECD Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions’, 22 June 2008, http://www.transparency.org/news_room/in_focus/2008/4th_oecd_progress_report

Transparency International, ‘Frequently asked questions about corruption’, http://www.transparency.org/news_room/faq/corruption_faq

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