Corruption or salting an icy roadway?

Many years ago, a former colleague claimed that he had been unable to make any progress, even after 3 months of calling upon likely buyers, to sell his corporation’s product in an Asian nation. Since it was generally accepted that one has to ‘grease’ one’s way in many of the developing countries to succeed in business, he needed to find the necessary pathway. The next year, having found the pathway, he returned; success was guaranteed. There are so many stories like this.

Yet, relatively recently, a segment of the local media made a great fuss about an agency allegedly paying a bribe to acquire some new business in an Asian country. It was as if these virtuous media people were working for some international agency. There, some pure-minded bureaucrats, pushing their ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to solving a multifaceted global problem, will make pronouncements about a certain nation having to toe their line, but without regard to the exigencies particular to that nation. I sometimes wonder why reality is so difficult to grasp.

The following extracts are from ‘Empires gone and going’ in ‘;Musings at Death’s Door.’

“One night, at about 2 am, when a good friend and I accidentally came across a young British policeman of about my age in an unlit car with a Chinese detective, on a dark road a fair distance from a popular club building, the Englishman claimed that he was a superintendent of police. Seeing his age and very aware of his possibly compromised position, I pushed him through a hedge, saying, ‘No, you are not!’ There were no repercussions, perhaps because my friend was a member if a powerful local family.

Then, corruption seemed to be the norm. A young Indian police inspector reportedly lost his job after he had demonstrated corruption in two areas in which had had served. A Chinese inspector, responsible for policing a certain area in his city, was seen eating in a prestigious Chinese restaurant frequently. The story bruited about was that, as long as senior officers shared in the loot, the Asian could remain the active ‘bagman.’

When was a facilitation fee or a gift in Asia a bribe? However, the modern Australian media perform cartwheels in seemingly righteous indignation whenever an Australian enterprise is found to have conformed to tradition in Asia (including the Middle East) by paying such a fee. Of course, there is a vast difference between facilitation and extortion. But then, is Australia corruption-free?”

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