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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Indifference and the crime of corruption
Article Type: Editorial From: info, Volume 14, Issue 1
Ewan Sutherland should be congratulated for bringing the topic of corruption in telecommunications into the mainstream of scholarly research and policy analysis. It is a subject that has been swept under the carpet for far too long. To my knowledge, in my time as editor of info and previously of Telecommunications Policy, not once was a paper submitted, commissioned or published on corruption until Sutherland’s recent work.
Typically we think of corruption scandals mainly in connection with public works contracts and construction, real estate and property development. Of course it should be obvious that telecommunications would be like any other sector, especially because of the temptation and lucrative opportunities afforded by the telecommunications reforms that have been taking place across the world.
In this issue Sutherland follows up his article last year (“Republic of Benin – chaos, corruption and development in telecommunications”, Vol 13 No 5) with a more wide-ranging paper entitled, “Corruption in telecommunications: problems and remedies”. Here he exposes the widespread nature of corrupt practice in three very different contexts, for instance in the Indian 2G scandal and across the Arabic region. One of the side effects of the “Arab spring” has been the release of information following the collapse of the regimes in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere. Combined with material made available by Wikileaks, we can now see the extent of the dishonesty across the region.
We should feel angry not just because nepotism has enabled some already powerful people to benefit unjustly but also because this shady dealing has short-changed ordinary people. Inevitably markets will not be competitive, will not be regulated fairly and result in higher communications costs for business and citizens, with consequent negative effects on economic development.
We should not, of course, make the mistake of thinking that this is solely a problem in the developing world. Sutherland also highlights the example of the Siemens bribery case, which attracted fines of $800 million under the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
A call for the telecommunications sector to put its house in order seems quite reasonable. The obvious locus for such a concerted effort is the International Telecommunication Union but, sadly, so far there seems to be little sign that it will take the issue seriously. In the meantime, let us not be indifferent to this crime and let us support those who would bring it to our attention.
Colin BlackmanEditor of info and an independent consultant.
1. Ewan Sutherland is blogging on this topic at http://anti-corruption-telecoms.blogspot.com/