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Termination: Bribery & Corruption

Bribery & corruption: a novel solution


21 December 2010

Text:\ Graeme Hague

When I’m not working for these guys, I dabble in writing novels. If you dig hard enough, you might find a few dusty copies in secondhand bookstores or in those ‘10 Books for Two Bucks’ discount bins in K-Mart. But would I say my profession was ‘writer’? Well, in this day and age of multi-tasking and jack-of-all-trading, it’s not something I think about. Until, that is, you’re facing a customs official. Once when I was tackling one of those Entry Visa/Arrivals Card thingies you receive as you land in a foreign country, after a moment of head-scratching, I put ‘Writer’ as my occupation. Unfortunately the country was Zimbabwe and the authorities interpreted ‘Writer’ as ‘Journalist’, and Bob Mugabe isn’t a fan of foreign journos… or local ones for that matter. While everybody else was being welcomed in, I was in the naughty queue having my passport scrutinised and stamped very differently indeed. Things looked scary and I seriously considered slipping a banknote into the negotiations to see if the nightmare would magically go away. Trouble is, you never know when you might strike the one-in-million ‘honest cop’. Finally, they got bored of my terrified squeaking and let me go. Three days later a friend arrived and under ‘Previous Convictions’ he admitted to a 15-year-old speeding fine (he’s a solicitor – couldn’t help himself). He emerged from the Suspect Queue after two long hours and only after wafting US$200 under the right nose.


Corruption and bribery is an integral part of the system in many developing countries. The practice of putting a sweetener in someone’s lunchbox to get a job done sooner, better and faster is as normal as flipping a few bucks to the bellhop outside a New York hotel. It’s a fact of life, not a crime wave.

A large number of international companies and organisations have become mired in a thick mud of Indian over-bureaucracy, incompetence and apathy during their attempts to retrieve equipment from the continent and money from the Indian government following the Commonwealth Games. But you could ask – didn’t they see this coming? It’s only been around oh… a couple of hundred years. What did they expect? Things to be done properly – like here? Hmm…

Oddly, the problem now, it seems, is a lack of corruption. Corruption is the grease that makes the cogs of Indian commerce go round and as a system it worked perfectly well – albeit in an Indian kind of way where nothing was ever really done, but hey, it got the Taj Mahal built without too many stop-work meetings. Then the Commonwealth Games gave a lot of countries the opportunity to stick their westernised, civilised foot in the door and start bleating about the level of corruption in India and demanding something be done – which they did.

And now the whole country’s ground to a halt.

So what do I mean about a lack of bribery being the problem?  Well, a lot of petty officials and minor bureaucrats have stopped processing an impossible tangle of paperwork – and they’re the only ones who can process it – because they’re scared that getting anything achieved is tantamount to admitting to being corrupt and they’ll get fired. In other words, just getting things done is proof you’re a bit dodgy.

In Australia we’re expert at being a bit dodgy and I’ve come up with a solution. (Be warned, it’s going to take an upsetting amount of beer.)


We’ve built our entire country on a currency of slabs of beer to get things done quickly. Slip a bloke a few dozen crownies and insurmountable problems will go away. What we need to do is export this kind of system into India, because we all agree that no amount of bribery and corruption involving alcohol is actually bribery or corruption. It’s just a ‘mates’ thing. Therefore all those nervous bureaucrats in New Delhi will breathe easy knowing their jobs are safe.

First you’d have to ship cartons and cartons of coldies across to Indian and then establish a rate of exchange. Perhaps a six-pack for a customs form to be signed off. How about a slab for inspecting a sea container? Two slabs for moving the filthy roadies through quarantine – ignore those nasty-looking lesions. It’s guaranteed that before long the dockyard stockpiles will start to move again. Freight will begin to flow. Technically speaking, stuff will happen and nobody will openly admit why. It just does.


If something does prove to be non-negotiable – if the risks are too great, the issue too complex to budge those bureaucrats out of the office – somebody can always make the big move and offer the cream on top. The real deal.

Of course, I’m talking about tickets to the footy.

And not just any tickets; good ones – none of this top tier of the Great Southern Stand rubbish to watch Port Adelaide play bloody Richmond. Even finals tickets. What bribery-starved government official could resist that?

As for getting money out of the Indian government, that’s a little trickier. There are only so many Mick Gattos to go around. But here’s an idea – send Robert Mugabe over to give them a bit of a talking-to. He’s good at ripping money out of people.


A six-pack for a customs form to be signed off. How about a slab for inspecting a sea container?


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