Flying over the devastation of the Asian tsunami several years ago, Arman Ahmad, a journalist, noticed something that he took for miraculous at the time: amid the shattered and fallen landscape, only the mosques remained intact. But the survival of the mosques, he later learned, had to do more with corruption than theology.
As a geologist told him a few days later, building contractors cheat regularly on civil contracts, throwing up shoddy buildings while collecting payment for doing the work correctly. “The only place they don’t dare cheat is when they build mosques,” he said.
In a moving essay for the Malaysian New Straits Times, Ahmad cites a report in the journal Nature that compared the maps of global corruption and deaths from earthquakes, to conclude that 83 percent of deaths from earthquakes were the result of shady dealing in the construction industry.
The earthquake in Haiti two years ago killed more than 200,000 people and left half a million homeless. A quake of the same magnitude in New Zealand that year killed no one. “But as is usual with those who are corrupt,” the writer notes, “they conveniently forget the heavy price others have to pay when they make their dirty money.”
Sweep to The unbearable price of corruption
The United Kingdom is pledging to go after clinics that provided tainted breast implants to some 40,000 British women, and now wants to charge the victims again for operations to remove them.
British Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said that major chains of clinics charged women thousands of pounds to implant the breasts in cosmetic operations, but were now referring them to the National Health Service for removal.
Some 300,000 women in the UK, France, Germany, Mexico and elsewhere own the breasts, which produced by Poly Implant ProthÃ¨se, a French company. The company filled them with industrial grade silicone, ordinarily used to fill mattresses. Doctors have warned the tainted implants could rupture and leak.
The clinics claim that providing so many free operations would drive them into bankruptcy, and they blame the government regulators for allowing the faulty products into the country.
In a bid to clean up Poland’s nascent shale gas sector, where corruption appears to be growing in tandem with exploration, seven people are under arrest on charges of corruption involving shale gas licenses.
The sector has attracted wide interest after a U.S. government finding in April that Poland, which is eager to reduce its dependence on Russian oil, sits on enough shale gas to meet its energy needs for 300 years.
Some 20 companies, including U.S. giants like Exxon Mobil and Chevron, have snatched up 100 licenses, granted on a first-come, first-served basis. In the second half of 2011 alone, the Warsaw Prosecutor’s Office maintains that corrupt officials have collected tens of thousands of zlotys in bribes in exchange for granting licenses.
This year, Poland is starting a new system of awarding rights to explore for gas and produce hydrocarbons based on public tenders, in a bid to improve terms for the state.