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Development-compliant corruption and graft-resilient growth (1)

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By Rotimi Fasan
TALKINGPOINT this week hosts Usman Audu. His thought-provoking, three-part article examines the dialects of development and corruption and would run in this column in alternate weeks.

Let me begin by declaring categorically that I am not a corruption apologist and this article is not an attempt to do advocacy for corruption or demonstrate tolerance for it.

As a matter of fact, I believe no society works excellently when the socio-economic atmosphere is corruption-enabling or corruption-polluted.

Therefore, the onus is on us to strive tirelessly to create an environment that stifles the menace of graft and I remain ready to identify with any initiative designed to combat corruption.

The unfortunate reality of our national life today is that multifaceted thievery is going on at every level of government(federal, state, local) and sector of economic activity(public and private). But one fact we must recognise is that Nigeria can still develop and realise its potentials in the face of corruption.

I believe some corruption naysayers would say “how is that”? Anyway, some countries have done it. Others are doing it and many more will do it. It is a matter of vision, priorities and political will.

The questions now are: How do we achieve development that is corruption-resilient? Some countries have developed in the face of corruption, how do we learn from their experiment or should I say experience? How realistic is the argument of corruption-extremists that nothing can move until corruption is stamped out?

Is there anything like zero-corruption? What initiatives do we adopt to reduce, control and manage corruption whilst we pursue policies and programmes aimed at accelerating our pace of growth and development?

Nigerians, both well-educated and semi-educated, are well aware of the fact that China is a fast-developing country. Chinese goods are everywhere. That is at the micro level.

On the international stage, China is currently one of the largest trading nations in the world and is well-positioned to upstage the USA in GNP and trade volume in the foreseeable future.

All these have been achieved not in an environment of zero corruption. Periodically, we witness cases of trial and execution of corrupt functionaries. This demonstrates the existence of corruption. So, how come their pace of development is so phenomenal?

The answer is, they have national priorities that are being pursued passionately. One of them is their unprecedented investment in physical infrastructure which brings down cost of doing business.

The multiplier effect of this is tremendous. Permit me to call this The Physical Infrastructure Model. Nigeria, our country, can equally do that. It is not magic; it is within the realm of what we can achieve.

I do not know of any Chinese economist that has won the Nobel Prize in economics but they grow and develop in a terrific manner. They mean business. They are serious.

They are sincere in their drive for development. In Nigeria, our sloganeering has not produced sustained pace in growth and development.

The hypocritical posturing by government being presented as anti-corruption crusade achieves very little.

Let us get serious about accelerated delivery of physical infrastructure. The Chinese miracle can be enacted in Nigeria.

Nigerians, within government and outside government know pretty well that South Korea is almost a developed country by contemporary standards.

Permit me the liberty of distinguishing between a developed country and an advanced one. Western European countries– the USA, Canada and Japan– became developed a long time ago. They have moved beyond that point.

They are now advanced countries that are on the leading edge of technology.

They dictate the pace and call the shots. Other countries are battling to become developed after which they will join the race for advancement. South Korea is now in the class of developed countries.

I know they are being classed among the so-called emerging economies but the truth is that that nomenclature is too elastic and available for varied interpretation.

The point is South Korea got to her present position not by stamping out corruption completely before making progress. They grew and grew even though they had their fair share of economic and financial malpractices.

A former head of government in South Korea committed suicide recently because he was being hunted and haunted by allegations of financial misbehaviour while in office. One thing the South Koreans did so excellently is what I would call The Conglomerate Model.

The government gave deliberate, calculated and sustained support to local corporate organisations until these minnows became giants they call Chaebols.

Today, these business groups have become multinational corporations operating very efficiently on the global stage.

Some of the big names that emerged from the Korean experiment or experience are Samsung, Hyundai, Daewoo, LG, Kia Motors, to mention a few.

Some of these business institutions are part of the FORTUNE 500 COMPANIES.

•Audu Usman is of the University of Surrey United Kingdom.

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