Monitoring is not enough

This is the first time a Bank of Greece report has targeted corruption. Nevertheless, the interim report on monetary policy submitted this past week by BoG Governor Nicholas Garganas was not prompted by the endless scandalmongering on the 8 o’clock news bulletins. His warnings rather were prompted by the paralyzing effect of sleazy practices on economic growth. Foreign firms are reluctant to invest or do business when they have to bribe local officials or make deals under the table. Also, corruption takes a heavy toll on social cohesion as black-market money is distributed among a narrow nomenclature of government officials, senior staff and party cadres. Of course, after some time corruption cuts across social classes as black-market money gradually spills over to groups attached to the state apparatus (tax offices, police, health, education, transport). According to World Bank statistics on corruption, Greece is at the top of the EU-15 list along with Italy and that should be a major cause of embarrassment for our political leaders. At least Italy has sentenced many Mafia leaders, bankers and stockbrokers to jail, whereas Greece only recently convicted senior officials for corruption. The central bank report identifies four main sources of corruption – all of them at the heart of public administration. According to the report, corruption lies in people’s dealings with businesses, in the process of state procurements, in tax offices, and in market monitoring; that is, it concerns competition issues. The BoG recommends strengthening inspection mechanisms. That’s not good enough. We need reforms that will ensure an efficient public administration and health system, and a fairer tax system. We must cut red tape and bolster competitiveness.