Corruption in the public sector, the practice of granting favors to private entities by state administrators in violation of the rules and regulations in exchange for hidden privileges, has been identified by social scientists as one of the factors that are most damaging to the social fiber. When the state, due to corruption, allows private entities to intervene in formulating economic policies to favor their particular interests or to disrupt the ordinary application of rules and regulations designed to protect the public, the negative effect on social capital is direct, immediate and cumulative. This practice, which is harmful by its very nature, contradicts controlled and planned development and also puts at risk the security of natural and urban environments. The worst impact on social capital (as has occurred in Puerto Rico) is that it adversely affects the public’s confidence in institutions.
The systematic conspiracy between private capital and the political class (illegal purchase of governmental favors by private interests, whether directly or through lobbying) is an unfortunate practice that is growing and has found a place not only in the globalized economy of the post-industrial world, but also in the business ethos and its day-to-day relationship with the political parties. On occasion, this public-private alliance includes depredation of public assets, at the expense of the quality of social services provided by the state. It must be remembered that the roots of this relationship are found as much in the nature of private capital (its imperative of maximizing profits) as in the moral weakness of the state administrators in the face of the temptations of corrupt offers and the absence of effective controls by the party hierarchies. In news media coverage, it is usually assumed that the origin of the corruption is found among unscrupulous politicians. But in reality, the main actor in this social distortion, the most active participant, is the business sector, while the government officials, in most cases, play a subordinate, more passive role. This global pattern is not exclusive to Puerto Rico.
Observation of the ubiquity of corrupt practices in all phases of public life in the globalized world points to the paradox of having reached the point of legalizing the illegal. What’s worse is that the social effect of the corrupt way of doing business by the political class is more than a strictly moral issue because it diminishes social capital, thus directly and indirectly damaging the country’s ability to embark on sustained economic development. Corruption, in other words, provides personal benefits to the privileged sectors (including the political and bureaucratic classes) and serves the interest of corporations and businesses in the short term. But it is enormously damaging for the country, for spiritual and material development, and for social stability and the political culture.
Author: Roberto Gándara Sánchez
Published: September 11, 2014.
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