Food for Thought: Can Corruption Make Sense?

There is a significant amount of information floating around the internet which raises some rather ‘unsexy’ questions. One of those articles was recently published on DevPolicyBlog.

Written by Grant Walton, the article, ‘Sometimes Corruption Makes Sense: Insights from Research into Papua New Guinean Understandings of Corruption’ raises some questions about how we view corruption – particularly from a development practitioner or donor perspective. First, he notes that understanding corruption in a particular country necessitates understanding the context in which it occurs. Second, he highlights the fact that corruption literature and policy documents tend to view all forms of corruption in a normative light, disregarding the social, economic and cultural factors that play an important role in a particular country or community context and that shape the attitudes towards (particularly small-scale) corruption.

Third, he draws our attention to the fact that marginalized communities can in fact benefit from corrupt transactions in a scenario where the state is weak, thus providing an explanation for why some citizens support or engage in certain corrupt acts.

Finally, and in line with the themes of essays published by Melanie Phillips and Seb Bytyci in this journal, he notes that in many cases people do not know that they are engaging in corrupt behavior because they are not aware of the laws, or of their rights and responsibilities within the scope of those laws.

The points raised in this article relate to research undertaken in Papua New Guinea but could apply anywhere. As such, they can also provide guidance in the implementation of development programmes – indicating education and awareness initiatives needed alongside our primary activities in order to ensure that we can be as accountable and transparent as possible with programme funding, while also accommodating local attitudes and practice.

Please check out the article here:


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