Global corruption

More than half of the people surveyed by the Berlin-based nonprofit group Transparency International think that global corruption has worsened over the past two years. The largest public opinion survey on corruption, the group’s Global Corruption Barometer, surveyed over 100,000 people in 107 countries. Its findings are a discouraging measure of the world’s eroding trust in the very institutions meant to help people.

Most respondents felt that official anti-corruption measures had deteriorated because of the continuing world financial and economic crisis. In all of the countries surveyed, political parties were perceived as being the most corrupt institution, with the police and the judiciary close behind.

Two of three people stated that rather than a direct bribe, the usual mode of corruption — personal contacts and relationships — have become the form corruption takes in the public sector. Over half of people surveyed felt their government was run by groups acting in their own self-interest rather than for that of citizens.

In Japan, 44 percent of respondents said the Japanese government is largely run by a few big interests. That percentage may be lower than in some other OECD countries, but it is still extremely high. Bribery is also relatively low in Japan, but Japanese ranked the corruption of all public institutions at 3 to 4 on a scale of 5. Like the rest of the world, Japanese ranked political parties and the legislature as the most corrupt institutions.

On the upside, nearly 83 percent of Japanese respondents said they would willingly involve themselves in activities to reduce corruption even though the most common reason given for not reporting corruption was the belief that doing so would not make any difference. That indicates an extreme lack of confidence in existing laws and institutions. Despite that, roughly three-quarters of Japanese surveyed said ordinary people could make a difference.

The survey’s results indicate that the rule of law and democratic processes are met with skepticism around the world, and Japan is no exception. To combat corruption, Japanese political parties and government officials and ordinary people should work to hold those responsible for corruption to account. The laws to prosecute corruption are in place, but they must be used. Those who trade on their contacts for their own self-interest in a corrupt manner deserve to be exposed and held accountable for their actions.

Corruption is more than just a way for the powerful and well-connected to enrich themselves and advance their own selfish interests. Corruption disrupts and disturbs people’s belief in democracy and trust in institutions, undermining the foundations of a free and fair society.