Eduart has many years of experience as an analyst and expert for financial, fiscal and economic issues in Albania and Western Balkans.
A democratic system does not guarantee a free society from corruption. But it is a fact that corruption tends to less prevalent in strong democratic systems with an open governance system.
Corruption is bad. But corruption that is not accepted in oneself and all the more so in a weak democratic system it gets even worse. This refusal is a masked approach to political corruption with seemingly popular views. Given the fact that corruption is not limited, then the perception is processed that in any corrupt politician it will be better to run the country for some consecutive mandates to the same politicians, who are better, that opponents though do not solve the challenges that the country seeks. All against logic is that others, who will be voted to enter the offices are hungry, as they have shown themselves and, in this case, even good deeds cannot do, but will require more bribes.
In fact, this development of corruption is not special for Albania. Various studies have shown that countries that enjoy an abundance of natural resources according to history in the last 30 years are characterized by less long-term economic growth, compared to countries with fewer or no natural resources.
Possible arguments are those of the macroeconomic type, economic structure and political market.
At the macro level, the exports of a country dominated by products derived from the exploitation of natural resources affect the lack of incentives to make investments and deep reforms to generate the economy towards the challenges of contemporary development. The reason is simple, as reforms have budgetary but also political costs. Meanwhile, it has been found that in many countries with natural resources, populist leaders forced by external and internal pressures are beginning to carry out reforms, but that they are left in the middle for reasons of unrealistic priorities in their agenda. However, given the economic and geostrategic dynamics, reforms can have positive results in the initial stages. But when the time comes to enter the essential phase of their development, the influences related to the corruption of the will make these reforms turn into the enemy of themselves and the people who have the expectation that the good will come after.
In this context, in Albania, due to the long-term economic instability of the country, it happens that large contracts to carry out economic reforms are given to trusted people connected to the government. In many cases, government contracts given to businesses serve some businesses that become large from these connections in exchange for a price paid for corruption, or as extensions of corruption by the government itself and their business groups.
But sometimes it includes guarantees from senior officials filling the fund for the party argued by the idea that corruption does not stem from and for the individual, but is part of the economic and political system. This policy financing model is most common when parties are in government.
If we compare the level of corruption in 2019 with the average of the last 10 years 2009-2019, it is noticeable that the index is 0.5 points higher than the average and the ranking of the position of corruption is 7 levels higher.
In this analytical comparison of the level of corruption and the country's ranking globally, it is noticed that corruption has increased significantly in the last years of the governance of the two major parties. In the years 2003-2005, the increase in the corruption index was reflected in the country's ranking in the world with 34 levels of decline. Similarly, in 2011-2013 the corruption index decreased by 21 positions. Meanwhile, when we are still in the middle of the end of the current term (ending 2021) the same disease of corruption is observed. The level of corruption is compared to two years ago with a decrease of 15 positions.
However, corruption has become standardized and more rational. In this structure of corruption, many Albanian businesses have reacted to channel it according to the different administrative levels of the state with which they have to deal.
Low-level officials are required to provide a portion of the material goods from the "corruption fund" for senior officials, making corruption more widespread, more organized, but also more profitable.
The so-called oligarchs (the largest businesses) deal directly with the main leaders of the government. Businesses of regional importance and scope do their business with regional leaders. However, this horizontal connection is not always maintained, as in some cases they are subordinate to big business or the underworld and this connection is channeled into the above category.
Individual entrepreneurs without employees are free from administrative yoke, but they are mostly in corrupt relationships with regional and local employees.
The most "satisfied" businessmen with this corruption structure seem to be medium-sized businessmen and to some extent some big ones (those who are no longer motivated to become big by public funds), but want to maintain that status quo of their activity at that level as they have and with their own forces.
Meanwhile, in recent years there has indeed been a new development in the structuring of the corruption world. A large proportion of big businessmen (especially those who get their hands-on public funds) think they own nothing but simply have the money available for a limited time as long as the governments that keep them last.
Oligarchs (big businesses) are forced to pay billions of lek for various reasons undeclared by them as they are increasingly afraid to say the reason for paying the corruption tax. With the centralization of real power in a few hands at a high level of government, corruption seems to be concentrated.
The principles of "good governance" can make it more difficult for corruption to emerge, as if these principles manage to become applicable then many demands of good governance, such as: public participation in decision-making, accountability, transparency and the rule of law would have made the “corruption tax” at least cheaper, but also more limited.
But has this happened?
In fact, it is the combination of the above principles with their practical implementation, that can help curb corruption and build a stable and hopeful society to have a better and unpolluted life from corruption.
Public participation helps greatly in mitigating social conflict and increasing confidence in governance, because if legitimate public forums and mechanisms for peaceful debate are such that they de facto influence decision-making for governing the country's economy and assets, then many of the government decisions would have a lower cost to us and the younger generation, but would also be at the service of the people and the future of the country.
What is constantly required by civil society is: more open and representative governance systems that allow a high level of civic participation. Currently, in fact, it is changing from a few years ago that the citizen manages to discuss and debate his own opinions, but they have almost no influence in changing the opinions of the government.
Government accountability is usually represented by dialogue with some of the most vibrant civil society organizations, individuals, and critical media journalists, who may publish flagrant revelations of abuses of low-level officials, but this is very little.
Informing about government affairs and presenting the volumes of work done is not transparency, but informing the public. Transparency should be easy in content and in real time.
It doesn't actually happen.
Public accountability of the government then remains one of the most important mechanisms for controlling corruption.
However, the fact that a strong civil society has not yet been established in the country, capable of protecting individuals and groups against government interference in overcoming their duty, as well as strong to influence government behavior, protecting those affected by injustice and the lack of check and balance of power is to the detriment of a decentralization of real power and to the detriment of its strengthening. Especially when civil society never has enough resources to do its job, being itself a victim of political corruption.
Despite the many problems caused by corruption, it can probably be said by some supporters, that maintaining a level of corruption may be necessary to guarantee short-term stability of government. All parties will be satisfied and will not bother to open problems for each other.
Corruption may be a way of life in many societies, or it may be necessary for different governments to survive, but the great harm that cannot be seen with the naked eye is the crackdown on institutions and reform processes, which must guarantee the safety and well-being of citizens. The facts throughout these years show us that it is precisely the indicator of political corruption that shows the weakness of the institutions and the retention of the last places for the standard of living in the Balkans and then in Europe.
On the other hand, there are many examples of political corruption at high political or economic levels that affect politics. These include scandals involving dubious party funding, selling political influence to major donors to the point of using connections to the underworld to fill their pockets.
Campaign financing reform continues to be a hotly debated subject in Albania, where the electorate remains betrayed for the special interests of the political leadership for power and material goods, but which have an unfair influence on lawmakers.
Corruption tends to be more prevalent in autocratic systems (where a person with unlimited authority rules), or in autocracies with oligarchy (rules from a small group of political and economic elites). Corruption in these hybrid political and social systems is one of those levels of proliferation that has become pandemic and lacks the vaccine to subdue it. This corruption, which is more prevalent in autocracy, is no accident.
While democracies that maintain their liberal and democratic standards gain legitimacy and popular support through competitive elections and the rule of law, autocracies depend on the support of a small group of political and social elites, the bureaucracy, and on the support of foreigners with specific interests in favor of their economy.
In states with unfiltered democracies and turbulent systems, at a time when they are moving from one side of the country's government to another, corruption is actually beginning to destroy the old ties to create the new ones. In last three decades, this castling has taken place in every political rotation and governance of right and left wing, most likely to continue the collection of goods even after that due to public contracts, which extend beyond the governing mandate.
In a political environment with disorder, it is almost impossible to put the fight against corruption into practice, as even the simplest actions against it are destined to fail. Many of the policy recipes for eradicating corruption and creating the model of good governance are simply slogans as the lack of policy stability and the spread of corruption at these levels turns all policies and actions into fiasco.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2020 Eduart Gjokutaj