They clearly went too far to end corruption, but some tactics worked.
By an American aid worker
from the April 29, 2009 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0429/p09s01-coop.html
Baksheesh is more than bribery: It's the economic backbone
of most official ministries and many businesses in
"It's not that there's corruption in the system," remarked one US State Department official. "It's that the system is corruption."
Unable to rely upon a transparent judiciary, or other
government offices, ordinary Afghans are the ones who suffer the most from this
system. They must pay government officials for services they should receive for
free or as a fixed cost. All of the aid money that the
To say they went about it the wrong way is an
understatement, yet the Taliban proved that corruption could be curbed. As the
The director of a nongovernmental organization (NGO)
recently revealed that groups based in
Consider this: baksheesh amounting to a few million dollars
in cash, has been used to keep several former mujahideen commanders from
From buying land to renewing visas, to side-stepping taxes, the legal process can be nearly impossible without those handy paper pictures of Benjamin Franklin. Turning a blind eye is an important income-generator.
Would granting higher salaries to government employees
reduce demands for this type of baksheesh? Sure. But a lasting solution would
have to address two major problems: first, the government's lack of
transparency, and second, the lack of checks and balances in the rule of law.
Both are complicated by
A single baksheesh results in gains for many individuals beyond the one who asks for the payment. These outlying beneficiaries are often close friends and family members. With these networks to support them, officials are more likely to demand baksheesh – and less likely to be punished for doing so.
Meanwhile, the Karzai administration asks international
organizations and foreign militaries to provide the social services it should
be offering. The Afghan government is little more than a fragile image propped
up by the
Without a systemic adjustment, this will not change. To be sure, making such change will be a delicate task. But there are lessons to learn from the Taliban. Under their hard-handed rule, governmental corruption, and crime were virtually eliminated. True, this came at great cost, not least to human rights and women's rights in particular.
But the Taliban's policy of zero tolerance worked. The streets were safe and cleaned regularly. The police were harsh, but honest. Doors to Afghan homes and cars were left unlocked, without fear of theft. Many warlords stopped fighting. The Taliban maintained a network of community mobilizers who used Koranic verses to shame farmers out of poppy production while also introducing alternative crops.
Again, the Taliban went too far. But
International funding can be withheld from corrupt ministries and channeled into those with track records of integrity as a reward. International NGOs and USAID contractors can be prosecuted for paying bribes. Local commanders who request bribes from international forces can be shamed by involving local Islamic leaders – and, where necessary, shamed publicly on Afghan radio and television.
In tribal cultures, shame works. In modern cultures,
education works. The Taliban used one and not the other.
This essay is written by an American aid worker living in
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