Over a thousand people died, and thousands were injured when Rana Plaza collapsed in 2013. Transparency International (TI) Bangladesh stated at the time that there were few mechanisms in place to ensure that building inspectors were not bribed by owners to "overlook" faults in buildings.
Also in Norway, we have had serious corruption cases where the consequences could be fatal. In the corruption case in Teaching building Among other things, fictitious invoices were issued for maintenance and repairs of school buildings that were never carried out. It could have gone much worse.
What about Beirut?
Now it's the hard hit population in Lebanon who asks if corruption could be the cause of the tragic explosion at the port of Beirut: Who owned the 2750 tons of ammonium nitrate, and who allowed it to be stored for six years without proper security measures in a warehouse in the middle of the densely populated capital? Many questions remain unanswered, but the fact that the corruption challenges in the country are enormous is well documented.
The estimate of Julien Courson, leader of the Lebanon Transparency Association (TI Lebanon), is that Lebanon annually loses two billion dollars in corruption. Transparency International survey Global Corruption Barometer (GCB) from 2019 confirms the picture. As many as 80 per cent say they have little or no trust in the government (which has now resigned), and 41 per cent of those who have been in contact with public authorities in the last 12 months have paid bribes. Buying votes in elections is also widespread, and as many as 47 per cent say they have experienced being asked to buy votes.
Humanitarian aid first
With this as a backdrop, there is no doubt that humanitarian organizations that are now assisting in the relief work will also encounter corruption challenges. Many have argued that the aid must be channeled outside the country's authorities precisely to ensure that it actually reaches those who need it most.
TI Lebanon has stated that the country's non-profit organizations are now forming a coalition to monitor the way emergency aid and aid money used on. This is a constructive measure – because as we know: Transparency is the best vaccination we have against corruption.
The next phase involves not only reconstruction and repair of Beirut's destroyed buildings, but also of the country's governance.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which also provides short-term emergency loans to countries in economic crisis, has tightened the requirements and set clearer conditions for granting loans.
In a statement at the international donors' conference initiated by the French president a few days after the explosion, IMF Director Kristalina Georgieva stated that they were ready to double their economic efforts in Lebanon. At the same time, she emphasized that the aid required the country's institutions to come together and submit reform proposals, including temporary measures to avoid continued capital flight from the country.
Both the short-term and the long-term efforts in Lebanon require a fundamental effort against corruption precisely because the consequences are so serious. Corruption takes life. The hope is that the international community will continue to support the forces working for the reforms needed to rebuild the country on the terms of the population.