R.C. practice 2 — Dec 28, 2005 (Taipei Times)

The mire of graft and poverty

People in poor countries lack the means to hold their governments accountable, resulting in more corruption and poverty. Rich countries should offer impoverished regions more economic support to break the cycle

By Jeffrey Sachs

Wednesday, Dec 28, 2005,Page 9

Corruption undermines the quality of life for people around the world, not only in poor countries. The US currently is witnessing several corruption scandals. Even the US’ Federal Emergency Management Agency, responsible for providing relief after natural disasters and man-made catastrophes, was in the hands of inept political cronies rather than professionals. When hurricane Katrina struck the US’ Gulf Coast, that incompetence proved fatal.

All societies require an effective government that can provide vital and irreplaceable public services and infrastructure. Thus, governments are invested with unique powers, especially the powers of policing and judicial control. But these powers are also readily abused. How, then, to ensure that governments are law-abiding as well as strong?

The best answer, both in theory and practice, is to find ways to hold governments accountable to the people that they serve. Elections are obviously one method, though campaign financing can be a source of corruption. Politicians around the world trade favors for cash needed to win elections, and they often use that cash to buy the votes of desperately poor people.

  Clear electoral rules and procedures can help ensure transparency, but accountability also comes from the broad society in between elections. Privately owned newspapers, independent radio and television networks, trade unions, churches, professional societies and other groups provide a bulwark against despotism.

In the poorest countries, where illiteracy is high, desperate people are subject to government manipulation and there is a lack of independent control through the media and professional organizations, governments face only weak control by society. They tend to be the most despotic and corrupt, not because poor people care less about good governance — on the contrary, their very lives depend on it — but because they lack the means to keep their government disciplined and law abiding.

The result is a trap in which poverty causes bad governance and bad governance causes poverty — a two-way spiral downward that can lead to such extreme deprivation that the government, lacking computers, telephones, information systems and trained civil servants, couldn’t function honestly even if it wanted to. The end result can be a collapse into a kind of anarchy, as in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Somalia.

One measure of the quality of governance in over 150 countries is provided by Transparency International, an organization dedicated to strengthening civil society in the fight against government corruption. It produces an annual ranking of "corruption perceptions," measuring the public’s view of the extent of corruption in a country.

In this year’s rankings, Iceland scored as the least corrupt country, with the Scandinavian countries, New Zealand and Singapore close behind. The US ranked 17th from the top, a not-so-glorious position for the world’s leading power. In general, the poorer the country, the lower the ranking: tied for last place are Chad and Bangladesh.

A bit of statistical analysis reveals further important patterns. First, Sub-Saharan African countries are less corrupt on average than countries at the same income level in other parts of the world. For example, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Mali, and Rwanda rank much higher than Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan and Vietnam. Yet the Asian countries’ economies have tended to grow much faster over the past generation. Corruption therefore cannot be the unique factor that holds Africa back. Africa’s problems have more to do with droughts, malaria, AIDS and lack of infrastructure.

Poor countries achieve lower levels of corruption when civil rights are protected. When people have the freedom to assemble, to speak and to publish their views, society benefits not only by increasing the range of ideas that are debated, but also by keeping corruption in check. It is no surprise that corrupt regimes routinely clamp down on the press, trade unions and on professional associations. In Africa, less corrupt countries like Ghana also have much better protection of civil liberties.

Finally, the data show that corruption is highest in oil and gas-producing countries. In general, natural resources like oil, gas, diamonds and other minerals breed corruption, because governments can live off of their export earnings without having to "compromise" with their own societies. The natural resources are therefore not only a target of corruption but also an instrument of holding power. Many foreign firms, intent on cashing in, fuel the pathology of corrupt regimes by peddling in bribes and political protection.

The implications for action are clear. By strengthening civil society — through legal rights and long-term economic development — and instituting clear rules to ensure accountability, political despotism and corruption will be brought under control. We should be uncompromising, therefore, in our defense of civil liberties.

The rich world should offer impoverished regions like sub-Saharan Africa more economic support to end poverty. Of course, aid should be directed to specific needs — malaria control, food production, safe drinking water and sanitation, for example — whose fulfillment can be measured and monitored to resist corruption. By raising living standards, we would also be empowering both civil society and impoverished governments to defend the rule of law.

Jeffrey Sachs is professor of economics and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.


relationship among paragraphes:



brief discuessing for each paragraphes:



vocabulary : (English – English):

  • mire = the area of deep mud
  • graft = the use of illegal or unfair methods, especially bribery, to gain advantage in business, politics, etc.
  • crony = a person that sb spents a lot of time with
  • inept = acting or done with no skill
  • incompetence = the lack of skill or ability to do your job or a task as it should be done
  • vital = (1) necessary or essential in order for sth to succeed or exist (2) connected with or necessary for staying alive (3) full of energy and enthusiasm
  • accountable = responsible for your decisions or actions and expected to explain them when you are asked
  • abviously = (1) used when giving information that you expect other people to knoe already or agree with (2) used to say that a particular situation or fact is easy to see or understand
  • desperately = (1) giving little hope of success, tried when everything else has failed (2) needing oe wanting for something very much (3) extrmely serious or dangerous
  • transparency = (1) the quality of sth, such as glass, that allows you to see through it (2) the quality of sth, such as excuess or a lie, that allows sb to see the true (3)  the quality of sth, such as a situation or an argument, that makes it easy to understand
  • bulwark = (1) a person or thing that protects or defends sth (2) a wall built as a defence (3) the part of a ship’s side that is above the level of the deck
  • despotism = the rule of a despot ( despot = a ruler with great power, especially one who use it in a cruel way )
  • illiterate = of a person not knowing how to read or write (2) baly written, as if by sb without much education (3) not knowing very much about a particular subject area
  • manipulate = (1) to control or influence sb/sth, often in a dishonest way so that do not realize it (2) to control or use sth in a skillful way
  • abiding = lasting for a long time and not changing
  • trap = (1) a piece of equipment for catch animals (2) an unpleasant situation from which it is hard to escape
  • anarchy = a situation in a country, an organition, etc, in which there is no government, order or control
  • dedicate = (1) to give a lot of your time and effort to a particular activity or purpose because you think it is important (2) to say at a begining of a book, a piece of music or a performance that you are doing it for sb, as a way of thanking them or showing respect (3) to hold an official caremony to say that a church or other building, or an object has a special purpose or is special to the memory of a particular person
  • drought = a long period of time when there is little or no rain
  • malaria = a disease that causes fever and shivering
  • assemble = (1) to come together as a group; to bring people or things together as a group (2) to fit together all the parts of sth
  • intent = (1) showing strong interest and attention (2) determined to do sth, especially sth that will harm other people (3) giving all your attention to do sth
  • peddle = (1) to try to sell goods by going from house to house or from place to place (2) to spread an idea or story in order to get people to accept it
  • bribe = (1) a sum of money or sth valuable that you give or offer sb to persuade them to help you, especially by doing sth dishonest (2) to give sb money or sth valuable that you give or offer sb to persuade them to help you, especially by doing sth dishonest
  • impoverish = (1) to make sb poor (2) to make sth worse in quality
  • discipline = (1) to punish sb for sth they have done (2) to train sb, especially a child, to obey particular rules and control the way they behave (3) to control the way you behave and make yourself do things that you believe you should do


signal word : (English expantation)



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About alwayscola18

*Always be misunderstood. *Majored in business administration, but contributing to satisfaction of primary living needs. *Prefer to speak out, and enjoy silence. *A Mandarin speaker, but not a grand-China nationalist; a Hokkien dialect speaker, but not an aggressive grass-root activist; an English reader, but not negative to my homeland; a baby Christian, but not a confrontationist to the God of earth. *With personalities of patience, cleverness, discernment, toleration, self-confidence, and friendliness.
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