Number 1 essential to fighting corruption: political will

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Former Hong Kong anti-corruption administrator Bertrand de Speville was at the Bank recently, speaking about political will on anticorruption.  According to de Speville, there are seven essentials to fighting corruption:

1.    Political will
2.    Our values clearly stated in law
3.    A national anticorruption strategy - clear, concise and comprehensive
4.    An effective mechanism for implementing it
5.    Community support
6.    Resources
7.    Endurance

His talk focused on the first of these essentials, which de Speville sees as a prerequisite to the others.  He advocates gaining the support of cabinet members along with the public, and has suggestions for dealing with those complicit in past corruption cases.  Given his experience as anticorruption administrator in Hong Kong, his approach makes sense:  Hong Kong was extremely successful in transforming its exceptional level of corruption to an exceptional lack of corruption, and achieved this transformation through a top-down, government-led approach.

The talk generated several interesting questions about how appropriate this approach might be for other countries, including others in the East Asia and Pacific region:

  • How effective is top-down anticorruption? (That is, anticorruption efforts designed and led by high-level government officials.)  In particular, how well does this work in states with weak governments?  In countries with low government capacity, what does it mean for there to be “political will” for anticorruption?  What is the best way to gain and use public support for anticorruption?
  • What is the relationship between anticorruption and good governance work?  Assuming that they should be separate but complementary efforts (as de Speville asserts), how should the World Bank balance its efforts in these areas?  Does anticorruption work in contexts where citizens have little trust in their governments to deliver services? 

What do you think?


Deborah Perlman

Public sector governance

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