The week in corruption, 10 May 2019
Inequality and corruption
This week, we’re looking at Panama and South Africa, where corruption and inequality have been at the top of the agenda in recent elections.
While Panama’s economic growth is outpacing most of its neighbours, it has one of the highest inequality rates in the Americas. At the same time, the country has been engulfed in various corruption scandals over the past years, including the Odebrecht bribery scheme, wiretapping by former president Martinelli and, of course, the ‘Panama Papers’. This historic investigation revealed Panama’s role in hiding wealth for the global rich and powerful — while vast parts of its own population, especially in rural areas, continue to live in poverty.
Panama’s newly elected president has pledged to address inequality and corruption, and our chapter will be keeping a close eye on whether he is delivering.
In South Africa, 25 years after the end of Apartheid, inequality levels are among the highest in the world: The richest 10 per cent own over two thirds of the wealth, and more than half of the country lives in poverty.
Corruption is rampant across all levels of government, and this only makes matters worse: it affects income distribution, the use of aid flows as well as decisions about public expenditure. Inequality, in turn, can perpetuate corruption, as the wealthy few protect their privilege through dodgy deals and illegal practices.
This week, the party of ex-president Zuma clung on to power in a general election. They should finally deliver concrete anti-corruption measures. But high-ranking members face corruption allegations, and our chapter’s pre-election analysis showed that anti-corruption commitments in most parties’ manifestos were vague at best.
Governments in Panama, South Africa, and everywhere else for that matter, should prove that they work for the whole population. Tackling corruption is a good place to start.
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