When I really look at what is hurting Nepal today, in all my mental arguments I keep returning to one reason: corruption. There is hardly any area of life that has remained untouched by the tentacles of this vice. From the smallest of things to the bigger games in the corridors of power, it has spread like a virus that is devouring the basis of human values: integrity.
I don’t think there are many people who can stand up and claim that they have not resorted to corruption to get things done. Whether it’s as simple as paying extra money to the taxi driver, not taking a VAT bill at a store, paying bribes to get paperwork processed at government offices, doing favours or getting recommendations, buying contracts, getting admissions, evading taxes, payoffs to get the law in your favour, conceding to corruption has become a way of life.
So, is personal integrity less valued than it used to be? Are ethical practices outdated? Is honesty a sign of weakness? No human being is perfect, and none of us are fully sinners or fully saints. The question then arises: how can we navigate the gray areas of ethics? How do we address our blind-spots and flaws, our complexities and contradictions?
Corruption is a barrier to economic and social growth, but mechanisms such as audits, prosecution, investigation, sanction alone do not seem to have helped prevent its multiplication. To build trust and integrity, one must begin with accountability and transparency. The government must involve citizens in co-creating solutions. Bureaucracy should be a technical process rather than a political process. Efficiency and integrity must be recognised and rewarded. There should be formal anti-corruption and integrity education in our systems. Above all, an anti corruption agenda should be formulated, implemented and monitored to collectively shift behaviours. And this must begin first within the government. We must understand that increasing corruption can breed larger evil such as money laundering, human trafficking, narcotics trade, terrorism, organised crime, protection rackets and unstable governments.