Transformation Is More Than Just Change
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Corruption cannot be beaten with weapons, pistols, police, or prosecutors. So what remedy can we possibly apply?
This and similar questions have been in the minds of millions of Mexicans as every day they take in new reports of acts of wanton corruption. People that were once respected and who occupied positions of honor are now found to be "on the take." When will this story ever end?
Corruption is a direct product of the injustices that we all comment on, all the time and everywhere. It is not just in politics where this takes place. It's also in business. In sports. In the academe. In churches and in the family. Corruption is all around us, and it is the source of the poverty with which we are so well acquainted. This, in turn, is a direct motive for the thousands who opt for a life of narcotrafficking. For those who sell pirated products. It generates indifference, destroys trust in our leaders and the bureaucracy, along the many other social ills that frustrate us in Mexico.
According to Bank of Mexico data (Banxico) and the World Bank, the cost of corruption in Mexico is equal to nine per cent of the Gross Domestic Product, some 347 billion pesos (~$18.7 billion US) per year. Those pesos could be applied to necessary infrastructure projects, for combating poverty, or other programs the government paused this year due to budget strains.
Corruption, then, has stalled the nation's progress, but it has accelerated the progress of certain people: those that flaunt the riches of Mexico. According to the OCDE, 10% of Mexicans control 40% of the country's wealth, while the poorest 10% control only 1.4% of the resources. This produces a profound inequality that grows with every step the country takes.
Due to the project I direct here in Mexico, called Thrive Without Bribes, I travel through the entire country, and I know of what I speak. These are not stories I read in some news outlet or magazine. I have witnessed them in Tamaulipas, in Morelos, Baja California, and Mexico City. All our cities have potholes in the streets, just like we do in Ciudad Juarez.
In every city, the public hospitals lack medicine and sufficient beds for the sick. The elderly bemoan their miserable pensions. Public schools are in deplorable condition. Our education system is such a fine embarrassment that of all the OCDE countries, Mexico is last in indices of achievement. Why is this so? Because of the shameful corruption that we suffer and that turns us into victims. The corruption a core of individuals have used to amass fortunes that have wounded millions of Mexicans.
Corruption indeed costs each of us something, about 14,000 pesos per year ($750 US). According to IMCO, INEGO and other organizations that measure corruption, in Mexico some 200 million acts of corruption take place every year (as reported by mienstrastantoenmexico.mx). Whether we wish it or whether we are even aware, money is taken out of every Mexican's hands by corruption each year.
The exact statistics can be questioned. Different sources have differing numbers. But the corruption is real. Mexico occupies seat number 123 out of 172 countries in the corruption rankings of Transparency International.