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EghtesadOnline: Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture hosted the Fifth Anti-Corruption Congress in Tehran on Monday.

December 9 is observed annually as the International Anti-Corruption Day since the passage of the United Nations Convention against Corruption on Oct. 31, 2003, in order to raise public awareness about the fight against corruption.

Officials from the judicial, executive and legislative branches, alongside private sector representatives and economic players, attended the congress.

President of Tehran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Masoud Khansari, in an address to the congress, blamed the growth of corruption on government intervention into the economy, Financial Tribune reported.

“Big government is the root cause of corruption and other fundamental problems. The economy’s problems will compound when the government deems itself responsible about everything from setting foreign exchange rate to the prices of gasoline, potato, onions and tomatoes,” he said.

Referring to last year’s forex market crisis, Khansari said, “Figures show that from March 21, 2018, to Aug. 22, 2019, a total of 629 forex market directives were issued. The large number of conflicting directives has disrupted the economic system of the country; people infer different meanings from these directives.”

Noting that quasi-state companies that have monopolistic positions in the market also contribute to the growth of corruption, Khansari said, “The annual budget of public companies is almost twice the government’s general budget. This is while tax paid by such companies is very insignificant.” 

As per the budget bill for the next fiscal year (March 2020-21), the government’s general budget has been set at 5,638 trillion rials ($43.03 billion) and that of state companies, banks and for-profit organizations at 14,839 trillion rials ($113.27 billion). 

 

 

No Longer a Taboo

The stigma attached to corruption is now considered obsolete, President of Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture Gholamhossein Shafei told the congress.

“Corruption is no longer a taboo. It doesn’t matter to us what might become of the economy, whereas corruption affects economic growth by 1-8%,” he said.

Shafei noted that the fight against corruption will fail unless it moves away from hunting down corrupt people to removing the roots of corruption. 

“A research shows that in all communities, only 1% of the people won’t use corrupt practices, under no circumstances. Likewise, only 1% of people, no matter what, would resort to corrupt ways to get their work done. In fact, 98% of people would behave responsibly or improperly depending on the conditions. That being the case, the fight against corruption must aim to remove factors creating corruption,” he said.

 

 

Perception Bigger Than Reality

The perceived level of corruption by members of the public is bigger than its actual level, said Vice President for Economic Affairs Mohammad Nahavandian, another keynote speaker at the congress. 

“In a poll conducted by an official center, most respondents said they believed corruption was widespread but their answers were negative when asked whether they or a member of their family had personality witnessed corruption,” he said.

“The fight against corruption is not a new issue; all confiscations during the early years following the 1979 [Islamic] Revolution were conducted with this aim in mind. Despite our 40 years of fight against corruption, the Iranian public is not satisfied [with its effectiveness].” 

Nahavandian said corruption has worsened in all countries, but that is thanks to more access to information and cyberspace, and not thanks to the unfavorable business environment or restrictive rules and regulations, Tccim.ir reported. 

“Many governments do not view corruption from an economic perspective. Revolts in a lot of countries have been sparked over corruption, shifting it to a political issue, rather than an economic one. Egalitarian sentiments will be hurt by high levels of corruption perception. Social capital will be weakened when people feel injustice has been done to them,” he said. 

“This undermines the trust among different segments of the society, including people, the government and civic institutions. Therefore, besides its benefit to economic growth, the fight against corruption will improve social solidarity, vulnerability remediation and resistance [in the face of difficulties].”

 

 

Iran's Corruption Perceptions Index Score

According to the latest report released by global graft monitor Transparency International, Iran’s score on the Corruption Perceptions Index dropped two points in 2018 to stand at 28 out of 100.

The index scale indicates that zero is perceived to be highly corrupt while 100 is perceived to be very clean. 

Iran's ranking also fell by eight places as it is now ranked 138 out of 180 countries under review. 

More than two-thirds of countries scored below 50, with an average score of only 43. 

Since its inception in 1995, the Corruption Perceptions Index, Transparency International’s flagship research product, has become the leading global indicator of public sector corruption.

Transparency International is an international non-governmental organization based in Berlin, Germany, which was founded in 1993. Its nonprofit purpose is to take action to combat global corruption with civil societal anti-corruption measures and to prevent criminal activities arising from corruption.

Because corruption is willfully hidden, it is impossible to measure directly; instead, proxies for corruption are used. Corruption is a very difficult phenomenon to measure, there have been many attempts to solve this problem but they've all come up with limitations.

The CPI has been criticized on the basis of its methodology.

According to political scientist Dan Hough, three flaws in the index include:

- Corruption is too complex to be captured by a single score. The nature of corruption in rural Kansas will, for instance, be different from that in the city administration of New York, yet the index measures them in the same way.

- By measuring perceptions of corruption, as opposed to corruption itself, the index may simply be reinforcing stereotypes and clichés.

- The index only measures public-sector corruption, leaving out private actors. This, for instance, means the Libor scandal or the VW emissions scandal are not counted.

 

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