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贪污是全球性的弊病吗?
Is corruption a worldwide disease?
蓝秉湖 By Lam Pin Foo  
=====================================

     The recent US corporate corruption scandal involving several major blue-chip companies and a world famous accounting conglomerate came as a shock not only to the Americans, but also to those foreigners who admire the much-acclaimed American management system.

  This scandal is all the more alarming because the companies implicated were mostly trusted household names and the perpetrators were their highest level executives.

  Starting with Enron, the largest US energy-trading company, the contagion spread quickly to other heavy-weight enterprises like Global Crossing, Tyco, QWest, WorldCom , Xerox, Merck, Bristol-Myers and Arthur Anderson.

  These rogue executives' alleged lapses or criminal acts included fraudulent accounting, tampering with financial records, destroying incriminating documents and other serious breaches of sound accounting and regulatory practices.

  Their main motives were to mislead their company's shareholders and the investing public by dishonestly inflating its equity value in order to protect their own share holdings in the company stocks in a falling stock market.

  Never in American corporate history has so few employees inflicted so much irreparable damage to the nation's economy and its international image. Their actions have wiped off billions of dollars in their companies' market capitalisations.

  Many knowledgeable observers of the US business scene believe that what has happened there is merely scratching the surface and that more corporate black sheep will soon emerge, with ramifications of global dimensions.

  Every one knows that Americans generally adopt a we-are-holier-than-thou mentality towards corruption in the developing world and the former Soviet bloc countries. (来源:http://www.EnglishCN.com)

  A worldly African traveller commented gleefully: The amounts involved in our graft cases certainly pale compared with the mind-boggling sums involved in the most powerful economy on earth. We now have one back on them!

  In Singapore, a senior Asian executive asked his American buddy half jokingly whether Asians or Americans are more prone to corruption? Somewhat taken aback, he replied: I think now we are about the same.

  No one can dispute that corruption is a universal disease that transcends racial and cultural barriers. But with determination, every nation can make it difficult for the guilty ones to profit by their ill-gotten gains, and to get away from the legal punishment with impunity.

  Be that as it may, one cannot but admire the US for the resolute and fearless way in which its Government and the courts tackle this wave of accounting frauds, and not sweep them under the carpet. Moreover, as an established democracy, its powerful media and strong pressure groups will ensure that justice would be seen to be done.

  This is in sharp contrast with the abuse of powers widespread in many parts of the world, where protective umbrellas enabled some public figures to exploit their positions for personal gains, instead of working for the common good of the people under their care.

  This happens when the pillars of democracy, namely the rule of law, a fair and effective government and an incorruptible civil service, are absent. As a result, rampant corruption becomes a way of life.

  Take a glaring scenario closer home. The whole world now knows that it is an uphill task to prosecute successfully a disgraced former head of state of a neighbouring country for his alleged graft and that of some of his family members.

  We have also seen how comically bizarre the government's failed attempts to capture a renowned fugitive of law with powerful connections, and the titbits of his life at large while under hot pursuit by the country's police force.

  We in Singapore have every reason to be proud and thankful that our country has been rated one of the ten least corrupt in the world. Instead of resting on our laurels, we must strive to ensure that it always stays that way.


(The writer is a retired lawyer.)


 
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