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Need for reforms and accountability

Corruption will continue to thrive until justice systems can punish wrongdoing and keep governments in check. When justice is bought or politically interfered with, it is the people that suffer. Leaders should fully invest in and guarantee the independence of institutions that uphold the law and tackle corruption. It is time to end impunity for corruption—François Valérian, Chair of Transparency International

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) denote a shared commitment to reform our global world. They serve as a rallying call to eliminate poverty and inequality, preserve environment, and secure the well-being, justice, and prosperity of every individual. Despite the global commitment for realizing SDGs by 2030, there is an observable sluggishness in progress by most nations. This slow-paced implementation is not exclusive to underdeveloped countries but even developed nations are failing to meet expected benchmarks. The overall collective performance of countries indicates a significant challenge in aligning with the ambitious objectives set by SDGs.

This assertion gains additional support when examining the outcomes of the recently unveiled Corruption Perception Index (CPI), 2023 by Transparency International (TI). The CPI underscores the casual approach of the global community in effectively implementing SGD Goal 16.5, which lays emphasis on reducing corruption and bribery in all their manifestations. The findings highlight widespread challenges nations face in addressing and curtailing corrupt practices, thus hindering progress toward achieving SDGs and fostering transparent governance.

The alarming revelation made in the Transparency report shows that a substantial majority of nations, encompassing over two-thirds, register scores below the 50-out-of-100 threshold, indicating pervasive and severe corruption issues. The global average remains stagnant, lingering at a mere 43, with most countries exhibiting little to no advancement or even experiencing a decline over the past decade. This year, in particular, witnessed 23 countries recording their lowest corruption scores to date, accentuating difficulties in combating corrupt practices worldwide.

The report further highlights that the erosion of justice systems globally is diminishing accountability for public officials, fostering a conducive environment for corruption. Both authoritarian and democratic leaders contribute to this trend, amplifying impunity and eliminating consequences for corrupt activities, including bribery and abuse of power, that are permeating courts and judicial institutions. In nations with high CPI rankings, an impunity issue persists, involving top-scoring countries in cross-border corruption cases and highlighting a failure to prosecute those involved in transnational corruption.

While analysing the performance of different regions, the report notes that they are either witnessing a stagnation or a decline in overall efforts. Despite being top-scorers, Western Europe and the European Union experienced a drop in the average score to 65, indicative of diminishing checks and balances and a decline in political integrity.

Sub-Saharan Africa maintains the lowest average at 33, grappling with pressures on democracy and the rule of law. Other regions, including Eastern Europe, Central Asia, the Middle East and North Africa, Asia Pacific, and the Americas, encounter issues such as dysfunctional rule of law, political corruption, conflict, backsliding, and widespread impunity.

The report highlights that the Asia pacific region maintained a persistent stagnation in the average CPI score at 45 out of a potential 100 for last five years. Only a handful of countries exhibit sustained transformations, signaling significant shifts in corruption levels, while some that have historically held top positions are gradually on a decline.

The report notes that in South Asia, Pakistan, with a CPI score of 29, and Sri Lanka, with a score of 34, grapple with debt burdens and political instability. However, robust judicial oversight in both countries limits government power. Pakistan’s Supreme Court expands citizens’ right to information, while Sri Lanka’s Supreme Court holds officials accountable for the 2021 economic crisis. India, scoring 39 in CPI, witnesses’ fluctuations with concerns about civic space before elections. Bangladesh, scoring 24 in CPI, has a least developed country status but encounters challenges in public sector information due to a press crackdown.

A significant revelation in CPI concerning Pakistan is its ascent by seven points, progressing from 140 to 133, along with a two-point upswing in the overall score from 27 to 29. This signifies the initial instance of enhancement in Pakistan’s overall CPI score over the past five years, spanning from 2018 to 2023.

Pakistan’s overall profile reveals ongoing challenges in fostering transparency and accountability across both public and private institutions. The country’s standing on the Environmental, Social, and Governance Index remains significantly low, with 2023 Governance Efficiency Ranking placing Pakistan at 157th with an overall score of 38.8. This ranking derives from an evaluation of the regulatory framework and infrastructure environment, utilizing 33 quantitative indicators to gauge sustainable competitiveness. It is essential to highlight that the Governance Index focuses on qualitative outcomes and does not directly assess the quality of regulatory frameworks.

Pakistan’s dismal global ranking across various indices stands as a significant challenge amid today’s economic, political, and foreign policy complexities. The country’s low placement on Corruption Perception Index highlights substantial mismanagement of public sector resources, which could otherwise be directed towards enhancing crucial social indicators such as education, healthcare, poverty alleviation, and for promoting overall economic growth with increased employment opportunities. Addressing these challenges requires a comprehensive strategy to improve governance, transparency, and accountability across public institutions, fostering a more conducive environment for sustainable development and progress.

The foundation for fostering good governance, maintaining fiscal discipline, and achieving effective justice and strong institutions lies in upholding the principles of trichotomy of powers outlined in the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Rooted in the excesses of power distribution, particularly within the judiciary, the current challenges in our political and economic landscape demand a reevaluation. To chart a course toward sustainable growth and stability, the forthcoming government emerging from the general elections scheduled on February 8, 2024, must prioritize enacting laws and regulations that promote accountability and transparency across the board.

A pivotal aspect of this process should involve an overhaul of the judicial system in alignment with global standards. The appointment and removal processes of judicial officials should be subject to parliamentary debate and oversight, featuring comprehensive scrutiny and screening. Concurrently, a robust system of checks and balances should be introduced for other institutions, ensuring stringent consequences for any violations or misconduct by public officials, regardless of their institutional affiliation. These proactive measures would not only bolster transparency and accountability within institutions but also elevate our standing on global indices related to the rule of law, corruption, and governance.

Furthermore, such reforms can play a crucial role in nurturing economic growth and promoting stability. By aligning our governance structures with international benchmarks, Pakistan can attract investments, fortify its institutions, and create an environment conducive to sustained development. This comprehensive approach underscores the significance of reshaping our institutional framework to meet the demands of a rapidly evolving global environment.

Huzaima Bukhari, Dr Ikramul Haq and Abdul Rauf Shakoori, "Need for reforms and accountability," Business recorder. 2024-02-02.
Keywords: Social sciences , Foreign policy , Global environment , Global community , General elections , Economic growth , Pakistan , SDGs , CPI

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