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Pacific Islands Corruption A Confusing Picture

ANU Media Release

News from The Australian National University


Pacific Islands Corruption A Confusing Picture

Attempts to understand the level of corruption in the Pacific Islands will fail without properly distinguishing the different types of corruption present and identifying ways to treat each one, according to an academic from The Australian National University.

Associate Professor Peter Larmour of the University’s Crawford School of Economics and Government has been studying what corruption means in the Pacific Islands context, and whether the increased focus on the issue reflects an increase in acts of corruption. His findings are detailed in a paper that will later form the introduction to a publication entitled Corruption in the Pacific Islands.

Professor Larmour said that the study of corruption across many of the Pacific Islands paints a picture of mixed success in anti-corruption measures.

“Corruption is hard to measure, but there have been new international efforts to do so, such as Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

“Where international measures have been applied in the region the conclusions are mixed and muffled. Some countries are doing better than others and where the measures track improvements, some have improved and some have got worse. There are also issues about what counts as corruption – when does a gift become a bribe, for example,” he said.

“It may be more useful to distinguish between different types of corruption, rather than trying to put them together in a single measure. There are many types, each requiring a different treatment.”

He added that while corruption was an old problem for government, there is now an increased focus on it in the region and concern about its impact on development.

“It’s an issue for Australia’s relations with the Pacific Islands. Corruption was involved in the breakdown of law and order in the Solomon Islands that led to the RAMSI mission, and Australia is assisting that country in corruption prosecutions. Corruption was also an issue in the Fiji coup.

“Corruption is also much talked about by Pacific Islanders, with local NGO activists, religious leaders and journalists complaining about it as much as foreign donors. Even Pacific Island leaders seem willing to talk about corruption and to characterise their systems as corrupt. Corruption has become part of the everyday language of the region,” he said.

A copy of the introductory chapter to Corruption in the Pacific Islands is available on request.


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