Worm of corruption

A recent special report in The Economist highlights the global dimension and the serious social repercussions of economic, and politically entangled, crime. The study draws the conclusion that bribery of state officials and, more generally, corruption in business is so widespread that it is condemned as «a worm that gnaws at the fruits of economic endeavor.» In some countries, bribery is so widespread that it pushes firms’ cost of investment by up to 8 percent, a burden which then has to be shouldered by society at large. This development, in a way, constitutes the dark side of the radical changes which have taken place over the last 15 years. The collapse of the communist states in Eastern Europe resulted in the sudden expansion of the free market to a vast new geographical zone which had no rule-of-law tradition, where bribery acted as a fertilizer for the growth of a nouveau riche-dominant class. Furthermore, globalization of the economy and the rapid expansion of international stockmarket transactions offered unprecedented possibilities for the recycling of dirty money. However, tolerance of these nefarious dealings is now history. The tragic events of September 11 underscored the reality that recycled dirty money has helped fuel international terrorism, while the accumulation of Enron-type mega-scandals shed light on the communication between economic crime and political power. The pressure produced by these developments mobilized the reactive efforts of Western democracies, which resulted in the promotion of new, draconian legislative measures and international agreements. The Greek State has to adapt to this new, stricter international environment, at a time when the tremors coming from the prosecution of the business activities of business tycoon Socrates Kokkalis portray entanglement, for the second time in 15 years, as the most persistent pathology ailing Greece’s public sphere. Those who hope to overcome the overwhelming accusations of the previous weeks merely by turning a blind eye to them are only deluding themselves. Besides, the voracious worms of this sort also grow in the soil. Even if the responsible officials insist on turning a blind eye to them, they will eventually be forced to deal with them.

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