Corruption has probably existed from the dawn of human civilisation. With steadily increasing population, accelerating economic activities and intensification of global inequalities, corruption has become more and more commonplace and pervasive.
Mr Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, has observed: “Corruption, embezzlement and fraud are all characteristics that exist everywhere. It is regrettably the way human nature functions, whether we like it or not.”
The magnitude and extent of global corruption are difficult to estimate because such activities are always covert and invariably done in secret. The World Bank estimates that annual worldwide bribery alone now exceeds US$1 trillion (S$1.4 trillion). The World Economic Forum estimates corruption costs now exceed 5 per cent of the global gross domestic product, a very significant sum by any account.
Asit K. Biswas is the Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore; Augustin Boey is a research associate in the same school; and Cecilia Tortajada is a senior research fellow at the Institute of Water Policy.