AFP, December 10, 2007

Afghan corruption threatens security attempts: watchdog

"Irrespective of its incidence and level, public perceptions of widespread corruption result in disenchantment with the government."

KABUL - Corruption in Afghanistan, which reaches up to deputy-minister level in an administration permeated by mafia-like structures, poses a danger to the nation's efforts at stability and security, a watchdog said.

Afghans say corruption is worse now than at any time in the past nearly 30 years, including under Taliban and Soviet rule. About 60 per cent of 1,250 Afghans questioned for the survey by Integrity Watch Afghanistan thought his administration was more corrupt than any since 1970s. Around 93 per cent believed more than half the public services required a bribe.
Zee News, Mar.19, 2007

It was also spreading across the country which already ranks as among the 10-most corrupt in the world, research group Integrity Watch Afghanistan said at the release of a survey into Afghan opinion of the problem Sunday.

Graft ranges from every day "baksheesh" (bribes) to get things done to civil servants buying and keeping their positions, it said, adding some believed it had "taken root in Afghan culture."

Mafia-like networks had spread in the administration with groups using their positions for their own gain, blocking reform and protecting their own, it said in a book containing a survey of Afghans in eight provinces.

"A 'bazaar economy' has developed where every position, favour, and service can be bought and sold," it said.

Afghanistan's lucrative production of 93 percent of the world's opium and billions of dollars in post-Taliban government assistance were exacerbating the problem, it said.

"The opium economy and other illicit activities as well as large inflows of international aid and pressure to spend it quickly provide for new and increased opportunities for corruption," the study said.

"The luxurious houses and buildings either belong to government staff or members of parliament...there is deceit, misuse and playing with this land" Karzai told a meeting of village elders in Kabul.
Reuters, Nov.13, 2007

"But more 'normal' forms of corruption, as in the delivery of public services or selection of public officials, seem to be on the increase as well.

"Irrespective of its incidence and level, public perceptions of widespread corruption result in disenchantment with the government."

There is "no doubt today that corruption in Afghanistan poses a serious risk to current efforts to rebuild state institutions and ensure stability and security," the study said.

It found that there was some degree of acceptance for small-scale bribery or petty corruption for low-paid civil servants, who on average earn 60 dollars a month.

However, "there is no sympathy amongst Afghans for those officials who demand bribes out of greed and not because of poverty," it said.

People also generally believe corruption was immoral and against Islam even if they sometimes had no choice but to pay bribes.

One person cited in the survey said concerns about political instability, and the chance that government might suddenly change meant people were trying to fill their pockets as quickly as possible.

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