The problem of corruption in Liberia

Transparency International classifies the damage caused by corruption in four ways: political, economic, social and environmental. Politically, corruption disrupts democracy and the rule of law. It causes citizens to lose faith in the country’s offices and institutions. When a government lacks legitimacy, it becomes unstable and insecure. In economic terms, corruption is wasteful and undermines the nation’s economy. Scarce resources are taken away from the community, projects do not go ahead, national development is undermined. It also interferes with the development of a fair market and deters investment from within and outside the national economy. Socially, it corrodes trust between citizens and government officials and amongst the community as a whole. In terms of the environment, it can lead to environmental degradation because environmental protections are ignored and natural resources are exploited for personal gain without any regard for the community at large.

How bad is the problem of corruption in Liberia? Because it is normally secret, it is hard to identify how bad corruption is in a particular country. Transparency International publishes a list of countries and ranks them according to perceptions of corruption according to experts and citizens. Back in 2005, Liberia was 150 out 171 countries but then fell to its lowest score of 75 in 2012. Since 2012, it has been slowly increasing and, in 2016, the score was 90. According to Transparency International’s 2013 survey, 86% of residents of Liberia said their government was ineffective at fighting the problem, the largest proportion of any of the nations; 96% of Liberians reported their legislature was corrupt, also the most in the world; and 75% said that they had paid a bribe to a government official. The World Bank Worldwide Governance Indicators scores Liberia 27 out of 100 for control of corruption (in comparison, Australia is scored at 95 out of 100); the Ibrahim Index of African Governance scores Liberia 31st out of 53 African countries and an overall score of 20 out of 100 for control of corruption – compared with Botswana which was 1st and scored 100.

What are the causes of corruption in Liberia? The cause in Liberia is mainly 14 years of civil war which caused the complete collapse of the Liberian state. It is generally recognized that Liberia, since the 2003 Accra Peace Accord, achieved impressive progress in combating corruption. From a score of 150 in 2005 to 90 in 2016 on the Transparency International Index is the direct result of Liberian government efforts to create anti-corruption institutions such as the LACC. There is still some way to go. Combating corruption is a constant battle. Recent TI surveys suggest a slight increase since the best result for Liberia in 2012 of 75. Corruption is a problem in every state, no matter how prosperous or stable. While it can never be eliminated, it can be reduced and states achieve different results depending on the power of the state and its institutions.