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Two sides of same coin  

Shamsul Huq Zahid       | Published: January 31, 2019 22:15:22 | Updated: February 01, 2019 22:30:06


There has been no dearth of issues to fuel discussion in this country. A strong debate over the December 30 general election outcome that preoccupied the nation has more or less subsided by now. 

The content of a couple of international reports---one on graft and another on capital flight, published early this week, however, would surely trigger a few rounds of discussion in the knowledgeable circles.

 The reports in question have dished out a few pieces of information that might prove to be unpalatable to power-that-be and some watchdog institutions. The report on graft in particular has already generated some heat in the relevant quarters.  

The Global Financial Integrity (GFI) Report was the first one to stir up discussion over the issue of capital flight. But before such discussion could gain strength, the Transparency International's report on global graft situation was released, leading to diversion of people's attention.

People rather intuitively like discussing graft since they are victims of this vice that is rather systemic in this country. In fact, the diversion is justified since most part of wealth transferred abroad illegally was gained through corrupt means.

In the TI's latest Corruption Perceptions Index, Bangladesh scored rather poorly. It slipped six steps in the overall ranking and four steps from the bottom to become the 13th most corrupt country in the world.

In fact, the country's overall performance in the 2018 CPI was opposite to that of the preceding year.  Its overall score declined 2.0 points in 2018.

The TI's graft report must have frustrated the Anti-corruption Commission (ACC) which has been initiating a few anti-corruption drives during the last couple of years. But the instant reaction of its chief to the TI's report might appear a bit strange to many.

He has sought relevant information and data from the TI in support of its observations relating to graft in Bangladesh. He has every right to demand the

same.

But will it be appropriate to demand the relevant information about corrupt officials and politicians from TI or others making allegation of corruption?

It is the job of the ACC to find corrupt politicians and officials. Yes, it might seek people's cooperation. But the basic responsibility lies with the ACC.

Moreover, in 2017, when the TI in its report showed improvement in graft situation in Bangladesh, the ACC welcomed it. But this time it has, apparently, taken exception to the report.

There is no denying that the ACC is no more a 'toothless tiger' as it used to be described even by its immediate past chairman out of frustration. At least, some mid to high level bank officials and a few government officials have experienced its bite during the last couple of years.

But, the popular perception is that the anti-graft watchdog is not adequately serious about pinning the high-profile corrupt elements and the ACC has not done enough to erase such an impression either.

In such a situation, it is quite natural that accumulation of wealth by influential quarters through corrupt practices would go on unabated and a part of their fortune would fly out of the country.

People are aware of the fact that money knows no borders. In the past they had a perceived idea about the siphoned off money. But for the first time in 2014, the Washington-based Global Financial Integrity (GFI) had come out with statistics on illicit capital outflow from individual countries. In the case of Bangladesh, the average annual outflow between 2005 and 2014 was $7.58 billion. In 2014 alone, according to GFI estimate, the outflow was more than $9.0 billion.

The latest GFI estimate shows the illicit capital outflow from Bangladesh in 2015 was $5.90 billion. However, the estimate was based on mis-invoicing in the country's trade transactions with developed countries. But the figure would be obviously much bigger if trade transactions with all countries, including two major trade partners, China and India, and outflow of all hot money are included.

So, with corrupt practices on the part of influential politicians and businesses remaining unchecked, the size of the annual capital outflow would continue to grow. Once corruption is checked, meaningfully, capital outflow would decline as a natural consequence.

zahidmar10@gmail.com

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