KUALA LUMPUR: The government has displayed great political will to eradicate corruption and abuse of power for a cleaner and accountable administration.
However, the momentum should be sustained and bolstered with efforts to strengthen legislation, including the independence of the country’s institutions.
Coalition for Free and Fair Elections (Bersih 2.0) chairman Thomas Fann said corruption and abuse of power occurred when laws and institutions were weak and appeared non-existent to deal with the problem.
“On a micro level, honest people are deterred from advancing their businesses while those who are dishonest add corruption and influence-buying to their cost of doing business.
“On a macro level, corruption perverts the decision-making process, diverting much-needed resources away from public needs.
“When contracts are awarded corruptly, often times they are not given to the most qualified or competitive entities, resulting in sub-standard deliveries.
“When there are hidden costs in doing business, foreign investors would also shun doing business here,” he said.
Fann said it was imperative for the present administration to strengthen laws and make institutional independence a top priority in the upcoming and future Parliament sittings.
He said there was a direct correlation between taking a hard stand on corruption and the prosperity level of a nation.
He cited the Corruption Perception Index (CPI), which is published annually by international anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International.
According to the CPI for last year, Denmark and New Zealand were the top two among 180 countries, earning a score of 88 and 87, respectively, for significant framework and efforts to control corruption.
Malaysia, meanwhile, improved its standing and was ranked 47 for the country’s encouraging development in weeding out corruption in the government administration.
“Most prosperous countries in the world are nations with strong anti-corruption laws and cultures against corruption,” said Fann.
National Governance, Integrity, and Anti-Corruption Centre director-general Tan Sri Abu Kassim Mohamed recently said Malaysia's political will to fight corruption had started to produce results, which were reflected in international indices and performance indicators.
He said the Edelman Trust Barometer showed that the level of public confidence towards the government had risen from 46 per cent last year to 60 per cent this year.
Malaysia had also moved 14 positions on the Economist Intelligence Unit's Democracy Index, where the country was ranked 52nd among 165 countries.
The country, he said, had also advanced to 15th spot this year from 24th among 190 countries last year in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report.
The Corporate Governance Watch report showed that Malaysia improved its ranking to fourth place among 12 countries in the Asia-Pacific region last year, compared with seventh in 2016.
Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said the government had made combating corruption one of its main objectives in its efforts to not only prosper the country, but also transform Malaysia into a dignified and independent nation under the Shared Prosperity Vision.
Fann said people needed to understand that the wealth of the nation belonged to all Malaysians and not just a select few.
He said political leaders were just custodians of that wealth.
“If everyone begins to see it that way, we would begin to hold all politicians accountable and give a zero tolerance attitude towards corruption.
“Corruption happens because we allow it to happen. Shared prosperity won't happen if we don't share the responsibility to see it happen.”