UN: Cost of bribes paid by Afghans spiked in 2012

Updated 08 February 2013
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UN: Cost of bribes paid by Afghans spiked in 2012

KABUL: The cost of corruption in Afghanistan rose sharply last year to $3.9 billion, and half of all Afghans bribed public officials for services, the UN said yesterday. The findings came despite repeated promises by President Hamid Karzai to clean up his government.
The international community has long expressed concern about the problem of corruption in Afghanistan because it reduces confidence in the Western-backed government.
Donor nations also fear aid money could be diverted by corrupt officials or mismanaged. Karzai ordered his ministries, prosecutors and judiciary to fight bribery, nepotism and cronyism with a series of measures in July.
But a survey by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime and Afghanistan’s anti-corruption unit showed slight improvement in curbing the common practice of paying bribes for public services in the country.
“Corruption means you don’t get the best in the public sector, you get the best connected or those with the higher income,” UN envoy Jean-Luc Lemahieu said at a news conference.
Fifty percent of the adult population had to pay at least one bribe to a public official in 2012, a 9 percent drop from 2009, according to the findings, which were based on interviews last year with 6,700 Afghan adults from across the country.
Meanwhile, the total cost of bribes paid to public officials increased 40 percent to $3.9 billion.
That amount was double the revenue collected by the government to provide services, said Lemahieu, head of the UNODC. He also noted that many poor people are unable to pay bribes, leaving them without access to public services or the ability to get government jobs.
The Afghan High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption pledged to continue its efforts in fighting the problem, saying the report was an important step toward locating priority areas.
One particularly troubling trend singled out by the UN was the emergency of education as one of the most vulnerable sectors. The number of Afghans bribing a teacher jumped from 16 percent in 2009 to 51 percent in 2012, according to the survey.
Offers were often received for improving exam results and providing information about the contents of the tests in exchange for bribes, raising concerns about the role of the practice in shaping the behavior and expectations of Afghanistan’s youths, the agency said.
The survey also found that more of the public finds bribery acceptable. Of the adults interviewed last year, 68 percent said it was OK for a civil servant to supplement a low salary by accepting small bribes, compared with 42 percent in 2009. A roughly equivalent number said it was sometimes acceptable for a civil servant to be recruited on the basis of family ties and acquaintances.
After decades of war, Afghanistan has long been plagued by corruption. The country also was ranked at the bottom of Transparency International’s corruption index in 2012, along with North Korea and Somalia. The index scores countries based on perceived levels of public sector corruption.


Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

Updated 21 April 2018
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Rohingya refugees rescued after drifting at sea for 9 days

BIREUEN, Indonesia: A Rohingya Muslim man among the group of 76 rescued in Indonesian waters in a wooden boat says they were at sea for nine days after leaving Myanmar, where the minority group faces intense persecution, and were hoping to reach Malaysia.
The eight children, 25 women and 43 men were brought ashore on Friday afternoon at Bireuen in Aceh province on the island of Sumatra, the third known attempt by members of the ethnic minority to escape Myanmar by sea this month. Several required medical attention for dehydration and exhaustion, local authorities said.
Fariq Muhammad said he paid the equivalent of about $150 for a place on the boat that left from Myanmar’s Rakhine state, where a violent military crackdown on the minority group has sparked an exodus of some 700,000 refugees over land into neighboring Bangladesh since August.
The refugee vessel was intercepted by a Thai navy frigate and later escorted by a Thai patrol vessel until sighting land, said Fariq. The group believed the Thais understood they wanted to reach Malaysia and were dismayed when they realized they were in Indonesia, said Fariq, who gave the identification numbers of the Thai vessels.
“We were forced to leave because we could not stay, could not work so our lives became difficult in Myanmar. Our identity card was not given so we were forced to go,” he told The Associated Press on Saturday.
Local officials and a charitable group are providing shelter and food for the refugees. The International Organization for Migration said it has sent a team from its Medan office in Sumatra, including Rohingya interpreters, to help local officials with humanitarian assistance.
Rohingya, treated as undesirables in predominantly Buddhist Myanmar and denied citizenship, used to flee by sea by the thousands each year until security in Myanmar was tightened after a surge of refugees in 2015 caused regional alarm.
In April, there has been an apparent increase in Rohingya attempts to leave the country by sea. An Indonesian fishing boat rescued a group of five Rohingya in weak condition off westernmost Aceh province on April 6, after a 20-day voyage in which five other people died.
Just days before, Malaysian authorities intercepted a vessel carrying 56 people believed to be Rohingya refugees and brought the vessel and its passengers to shore.
Mohammad Saleem, part of the group that landed Friday in Aceh, said they left from Sittwe in Rakhine state, the location of displacement camps for Rohingya set up following attacks in 2012 by Buddhist mobs.
“We’re not allowed to do anything. We don’t have a livelihood,” the 25-year-old said. “We can only live in the camps with not enough food to eat there. We have no rights there.”