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Private Sector Amps Up Anti-Corruption Drive

Finance Desk
Tehran Chamber of Commerce, which was formally recognized by the International Chamber of Commerce as the main entity for devising corruption-free codes of conduct for private businesses, held its third annual anti-corruption event on Monday
Mohammad Mehdi Behkish, secretary-general of the Iranian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, addresses TCCIM’s annual anti-corruption event on Dec. 11.Mohammad Mehdi Behkish, secretary-general of the Iranian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, addresses TCCIM’s annual anti-corruption event on Dec. 11.

Ahead of the publication of the Global Corruption Report by Transparency International, the Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture organized its annual anti-corruption event on Monday.

Held to mark the International Anti-Corruption Day on Dec. 9, the event was attended by top private sector officials as well as representatives of the United Nations and International Chamber of Commerce for Iran.

Hassan Abedi Jafari, secretary of the event and a TCCIM member, kicked off the meeting by referring to global data indicating that world corruption is currently on a rising trajectory.

“Only 18% of all nations managed to reduce corruption last year compared with the year before, 53% saw a year-on-year rise and an overwhelming majority of people do not have much faith in their governments’ corruption crackdown abilities,” he added.

Iran has also not fared well and has failed to score higher than 30 out of 100 in the corruption index while its municipalities, banks, courts, customs and other state entities are vulnerable to corruption. However, Jafari sees a silver lining.

“Hope toward improvements in our country exists in that for a number of years, NGOs and the private sector have emerged as two effective groups vigorously endeavoring to break this faulty cycle alongside and outside the government,” he said.

  A Panacea

TCCIM Chairman Masoud Khansari enumerated major challenges facing the country, beginning with unemployment.

Three and a half million people, consisting mostly of educated millennials, remain jobless and embody a significant hurdle for the administration that now has to generate roughly a million jobs per year to gradually decrease the 12% unemployment rate.

Consecutive negative investment growth rates in the past six years, weaker than anticipated foreign finance flow, a hefty credit crunch facing the banking system, a water shortage promising substantial issues in the future, and pension funds with a hamstrung Social Security Organization that have proven an “encumbrance on the annual budget” were referred to by the official as other major challenges.

He also pointed to Iran’s longstanding problem pertaining to brain drain–3.5 million Iranians are currently preparing to leave the country–and other social dilemmas such as diminishing public trust as other deep-rooted issues.

“I believe corruption to be the underlying foundation of all these challenges,” Khansari stressed, adding that a comprehensive crackdown on corruption would remedy all these pains.

As the Law of Improving the Health of Bureaucracy and Combating Corruption–passed six years ago–has effectively failed in its mandate, the leading figure of the private sector said Iran must refrain from “reinventing the wheel” and look to anti-corruption success stories around the world, where countries shy away from enlarging the government, expand their private sectors both in size and authority, and allow full access to their press.

Kaveh Moradi, the representative of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, took to the podium next to emphasize on the importance of anti-corruption drive for the implementation of the 16th sustainable development goal devised by the UN, i.e. peace, justice and strong institutions.

He also read a Farsi rendition of a statement from Yury Fedotov, the executive director of UNODC.

  Fight the Malady, Not the Symptom

Delivering a speech at the same event was Gholamhossein Shafei, the head of the Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture, initially cited a number of studies indicating the serious adverse impact of corruption on GDP growth, exports and imports, among others.

According to UNODC, every year $1 trillion are paid in bribes and an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption, representing more than 5% of the global GDP.

The ICCIMA chief then denounced corruption as a deep-rooted and dangerous crisis for Iran that “goes beyond our economic problems” and has created a “moral downfall” that is going largely unnoticed.

“What we are witnessing is a campaign against the corrupt, not corruption,” Shafei said, calling on the private sector to lead the way by devising moral codes of conduct and demanding their implementation.

The event also included a keynote speech by Mohammad Mehdi Behkish, secretary-general of the Iranian National Committee of the International Chamber of Commerce, who mainly accentuated the need for promoting healthy competition in the economy to push back corruption.

He strongly criticized the fact that the exchange rate of the US dollar has been set at 35,000 rials in the 2018-19 annual budget that was submitted to the parliament on Sunday, saying that such a move breeds corruption, especially since the greenback is currently traded with a whopping difference in the market at around 42,000 rials.

He further called for the dual foreign exchange rates to be unified and denounced the fact that some businessmen are forced to pay bribes to get through customs, saying that such a practice will become routine and fan the flames of corruption.

Behkish formally bestowed Khansari with ICC’s certificate that recognized TCCIM as the entity in charge of devising corruption-free codes of conduct while it was announced at the event that the corruption evaluation model of private businesses will be unveiled before the next fiscal year starts in March 2018.

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