Corruption is a social evil. It demeans administrative institutions and destroys public confidence in them. It drains the country of monetary resources that could be otherwise used beneficially. Exposure of individuals who indulge in corruption has not always worked to restrain others. It cripples our government institutions, robbing them of money and resources that could have saved lives and families during a crisis such as the Covid-19 pandemic.
The handling of the Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated this perfectly.
The Covid-19 pandemic upended our lives and livelihoods. Worst of all, it exposed deep inequalities in our healthcare and administrative systems and stretched our medical services to their breaking point. Inequitable distribution of resources and no mechanism to demand accountability are just the tip of the iceberg of problems thrown bare by the pandemic.
We have all seen the graphic and heart-rending images of long lines outside hospitals for beds, ventilators, oxygen, and medicine. Corruption hamstrung the ability of governments to mitigate the crisis by sending more funds, as they were already cash-strapped.
History has shown that communities of color and minorities are often the worst affected by a healthcare crisis. This has to do with pre-existing conditions that disable them from seeking healthcare services due to a lack of such services near to their homes. Colored neighborhoods are often overlooked and under-financed when it comes to town planning and hospital building.
Unpredictably, those who were worst affected by Covid-19 were communities of color and minorities. The death rate for minorities was 2.4 times the death rate of white communities. Non-whites had a 3.5 times higher chance of the infection becoming serious enough to require hospitalization.
The lack of healthcare infrastructure and appropriate funds to be used in emergencies were all death knells for thousands of people. The countries with higher rates of corruption found it even harder to order medicines and beds for the critically sick. Most if not all countries were under-prepared to deal with the pandemic, and citizens were left in a race against time on their own.
The systematic diversion of funds from the public to the personal coffers of corrupt individuals has cost us all dearly. The lack of transparency on government spending, once something no one batted an eye about, has become a leading point of discussion in the fight against corruption. Governments owe their citizens transparency and truth. The difficulty seen in countries with delivering economic stimulus packages is a symptom of rampant corruption.
A far worse consequence of corruption would be the draconian measures certain countries have employed to deal with. Democratic nations with long-term corruption issues have restricted freedom of speech and movement as methods to counter and control it. Dissidents have been silenced by jailing, cutting off internet services, house arrests, and increased surveillance.
In a time like this, a time like none other before, we need to bring a sense of stability and certainty in all countries. Long overdue measures to tackle corruption must be taken by governments worldwide to ensure that we won’t be caught unawares again. A fair and transparent system of governance, with vigorous anti-corruption measures in place, will go a long way in helping us respond swiftly to future emergencies.