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article imagePolitical corruption costs governments $1.6 trillion each year

By Chris Dade     Nov 9, 2009 in Politics
As a five-day anti-corruption convention got underway on Monday in Doha, the capital of Qatar, the United Nations said the cost of political corruption to governments around the world is about $1.6 trillion each year.
With hundreds of envoys from the UN, the World Bank and government watchdog groups gathered in the Qatari capital their task is to attempt to give a UN anti-corruption agreement, put in place four years ago, greater enforcement powers.
While the agreement is supported by 141 nations, the Associated Press notes that not much has changed in countries known for corrupt politicians, including Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. With two previous conventions having failed to produce more effective enforcement methods when it comes to tackling political corruption, hopes are not necessarily high for more success this time around.
As the BBC reports, efforts to stem the massive outflow of public funds, money laundering is responsible for much of the cross-border movement of those funds, are hampered by the fact that the likes of China, Iran and Russia are reluctant to allow independent scrutiny of their finances.
Tax havens, which often have highly secretive bank laws, and countries in which public accountability has never existed, the Associated Press identifies the Gulf as home to states that fit the latter description, are considered to be two of the major obstacles to tracing money that has often left public funds illegally and needs to be returned to its rightful place.
Currently Managing Director of the World Bank, and previously the Finance Minister and the Foreign Minister of Nigeria, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has spoken of what she would like the convention in Doha to achieve. She said, "We hope to have a commitment to action. We've had a lot of talk. Now we'd like to see some action."
Ms Okonjo-Iweala, once mentioned as a potential World Bank President, believes that success in fighting government corruption is essential if more money is to be allocated to problem areas such as AIDS prevention and child health care. Recovering just $100 million would for example ensure that four million children are fully immunized.
Based in the German capital Berlin, Transparency International is an international non-governmental organization dedicated to fighting corruption. Its Chairwoman is Huguette Labelle, the Chancellor of the University of Ottawa and a retired Canadian civil servant.
Ms Labelle is present in Doha and she has explained what she wants to see happen as far as tackling political corruption is concerned, saying:
Public officials need to be held fully accountable to the public they serve. When all the public money is on the table in a full and independent review, then it will be much harder for anyone to shift funds to some fiscal haven somewhere
With the leaders of some regimes having allegedly diverted as much as 4.5 percent of their country's gross domestic product for their own personal use, former President of the Philippines Ferdinand Marcos, who actually died in 1989, is one leader said to have done just that, the need to fight political corruption is as great as it has ever been.
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